- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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WILMINGTON, Mass. -- When Ryan Donato heard his name called at the NHL entry draft last month at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, he experienced a moment of shock upon being selected by the Boston Bruins.
"Honestly, I blacked out when I got drafted," Donato said with a big smile.
The Bruins selected Donato, 18, in the second round, the 56th overall pick. The 6-foot, 174-pound forward from the Dexter School is the son of former Bruins forward and current Harvard men's ice hockey coach Ted Donato.
Ted Donato played nine seasons for the Bruins, and when he heard his son's name called last month in Philadelphia, Ted gave Ryan a big hug.
On Wednesday, Ryan Donato was on the ice as an official member of the Bruins' organization. Donato joined 22 other potential prospects, most of whom were wearing the spoked B for the first time, on the first day of rookie development camp at Ristuccia Arena.
"It's incredible," Donato said. "Watching my dad, and being around the rinks growing up, and now being able to put on the Black and Gold myself felt really good."
Donato has been a Bruins fan his entire life and follows the team religiously. The Scituate, Mass., native knows there will be some added pressure by being drafted by the Bruins, the same organization that selected his father in the fifth round (98th overall) in the 1987 draft.
Donato acknowledged that he's aware of the extra scrutiny, but says it's ultimately a good thing. "People asking, 'Are you Donato's kid?' kind of gets me a little bit, but I think it's beneficial because people do watch me a little bit more and I think it can only help me."
The fact that he's a member of the Bruins' organization sank in when he returned home from the draft. But when his blades hit the ice Wednesday morning, it was a true indication that this is real.
"When I went back home and seeing a lot of my family it kind of hit me a little bit," Donato said. "Today, putting on the jersey and being on the ice with all the Bruins' jerseys made me realize this is something special."
Donato said he doesn't mind the attention of being the son of a former NHLer.
"I do want to make it my own path, but to follow my dad's path is something I want to do," Donato said. "Obviously, I want to make my own name and create my own stuff, and I think I'm doing that, but he was successful and had a good career in the NHL and I'm going to shoot for what he had in his career, too."
Donato already has a career decision to make. He plans on playing for his father at Harvard starting in the fall of 2015, but he still needs to decide whether he'll return to Dexter for his senior year or play for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL next season.
At some point soon, the Bruins will speak with Donato, his family and his adviser, and the organization will share its opinion about where it thinks he should play next season. Bruins assistant general manager Don Sweeney said hopefully it's a collective decision.
"The family has the power to say 'yea' or 'nay' but I think you should be in lockstep with each other, as to see what's coming down the road and what's best for him," Sweeney said. "We're going to support whatever the decision is, but we certainly will be out in front of it, as to what we think is best for Ryan."
Prior to the draft, the Bruins interviewed many potential draftees, including Donato. Just because his dad is a close friend and former college and pro teammate of Sweeney's, Ryan did not receive any special treatment.
"I think my interview went good with them before and we have a lot of experience with them, obviously, being around the rinks. And I honestly think I'm happiest here and I wouldn't be happier anywhere else than here," Donato said.
Sweeney said the Bruins were honest with Ryan about his development as a player.
"You can ask Ryan, because it was brought to my attention that we did challenge him in the interview," Sweeney said. "In terms of the type of player, the gaps in his games and most time you've got to call a spade a spade. You've seen a player play and you have to get him to understand he has areas of his game that he needs to work on. The best part about it is they've probably heard it from their dad, who's been through that experience. These players have a different perspective when they have respect for how hard and difficult it's going to be to get there, but they have confidence about their own skill set. But I don't think from a business standpoint, you lose your job pretty quickly if you misidentify, so from our standpoint, we have to get it right."
Ted Donato is one of the most well-respected Bruins players of all time. He played the game right. He was a true pro on and off the ice. More importantly, he is a good person. Beyond the bloodline, now it's Ryan's turn to make his mark and he believes he has the perfect mentor to help him realize his dream of playing in the NHL for the Bruins.
When asked what advice his father gave him after he was drafted, Ryan said, "His one advice: Work your hardest. Don't give up. And compete as hard as you can."