Matt Donovan, the New York Islanders 4th round pick in the 2008 NHL draft, finally got his chance to play in the NHL this year. The defenseman was great in the minors totaling 118 points in 180 games and looked like he would be part of what already is a promising and young defensive core. Donovan beat out fellow defenseman Calvin de Haan and Griffin Reinhart who were both first round picks by the team for a spot on the Islanders’ roster.
Matt Donovan recorded his first goal early in the season against the Phoenix Coyotes but mostly struggled in the first half of his NHL career. Donovan was turnover prone and struggled mightily with a defensive core that was already weak.
He was sent to the minors multiple times this year in order to work on his game but the problem was that his game did not translate to the NHL level when given the opportunity. Although Matt Donovan was shaky in the first half of the season with the Islanders, we saw glimpses of his potential in the second half of the season. Donovan showed poise with the puck and showed his offensive effectiveness by amassing 9 points in 16 games and having a +/- of -1.
The question fans should be asking is whether Donovan was given a fair shot? I say he was not due the fact he spent his time playing with Matt Carkner. No disrespect to Carkner but Donovan was put in a tough situation playing with a guy who is a bottom of the roster defenseman. This was different than what occurred with Calvin de Hann, who was paired with veteran Travis Hamonic and the two were excellent together. Hopefully the Islanders sign veteran defenseman Dan Boyle whose negotiating rights were acquired last week in an attempt to fill a veteran leadership role.
Matt Donovan will be a restricted free agent this summer and the question is, should the New York Islanders bring him back? If signed, Donovan wound most likely start the season in the minors, due to the fact the Islanders have a deep defensive core. It’s frustrating to watch a player like Donovan who clearly shows potential in the minors, but can’t succeed at the next level. The idea of trading Donovan at this year’s NHL draft has been tossed around but I believe the Islanders should re-sign Donovan.
The Islanders only true offensive defenseman is Lubomir Visnovsky but he might retire or be bought out by the team while Dan Boyle is not under contract. Donovan has shown the potential to be a solid offensive defenseman and those are hard to find these days. I would guess the Islanders give him a two or three-year deal and give him the opportunity if an injury occurs to another player. Donovan may have been very shaky this year, but the offensive potential is way too much to give up.