Eide: How Joonas Donskoi is contributing to Seattle Kraken despite no goals
Down 4-1 at the start of the third period against the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday, things looked bleak for the Seattle Kraken.
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They went on a power play early into the third and forward Joonas Donskoi took a shot that ended up in the Columbus net. It was a momentum-sparking goal and the Kraken scored twice more in the period for an unexpected comeback that forced overtime where they earned a point in the standings.
For Donskoi, the monkey was off his back. After 27 games with Seattle, he had finally scored a goal. Or had he?
The replay showed that the puck hit the backside of Jaden Schwartz who flew in front of the Blue Jackets net. It would be a goal for Schwartz.
“I was like ‘Oh, I scored a goal,” Donskoi said with a chuckle. “I didn’t know it hit Schwartzy but that’s fine. That was a good screen by Schwartzy, there in front of the net and it hit his (butt).”
Donskoi, 29, is a goal scorer who hasn’t scored a goal but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been a big part of the Kraken attack this year.
He’s seventh on the Kraken scoring list with 14 points, all assists, and is finding ways to contribute offensively. His assist off Schwartz’s body resulted in a big goal, as was his assist on Ryan Donato’s goal Tuesday to break a scoreless tie against the San Jose Sharks. The Kraken would go on to an important 3-1 win that night.
“The biggest thing is he is providing offense,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “The number of points that he has, and that play the other night, he generates plays. A flash screen by Schwartzy but a real good play Donnie.”
It would make sense for a guy who has scored 78 career goals to press a little or grip his stick too tightly looking for a goal.
But being a veteran of 428 NHL games, Donskoi knows how to handle a goalless streak like the one he’s on.
“I’ve come through stretches before and I feel like I’ve grown up a little bit,” Donskoi said. “I have more experience now. I feel like in the past I would maybe beat myself up too much. I was in my head and all that kind of stuff. I feel like I’ve been able to kind of not think about it too much if you know what I mean?”
“Obviously I want to score goals and hopefully it will start going into the net soon here, but I’m not thinking about it too much. I’m only thinking about the performance and practicing and making sure I’m ready for games and doing those other small things.”
From Finland to San Jose to Seattle
Donskoi hails from Raahe in Finland and made his NHL debut with the San Jose Sharks in 2015, scoring 11 goals as a rookie. He added six more in the playoffs that season as the Sharks advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in their franchise history.
His Game 3 overtime winner gave the Sharks their first Final win. (Watch that goal here)
Donskoi spent his last two years with the Colorado Avalanche and had his two best goal-scoring seasons of his career with 16 and 17 markers during two COVID-19 shortened seasons. When Colorado exposed him at the NHL Expansion Draft, he was an easy choice for the Kraken.
He was coming off his best shooting season in the NHL, scoring on 19.8 percent of his shot attempts. This season that percentage is stuck on zero but he is still creating 1.2 shots per game which is only slightly below the 1.7 he generated last season.
Even if he shot 15 percent, he’d have five goals and be in a fight to be the Kraken’s leading scorer. The law of averages says that the puck will start going in for him at some point.
Donskoi doing a little bit of everything
Instead of stressing about the lack of goals, Donskoi has been chipping in elsewhere.
He’s been a mainstay on the Kraken power play but has also contributed to the penalty kill – something he hadn’t done much of until last season in Colorado. It’s something that he takes pride in.
“I started playing a little bit last couple of years with the with the Avalanche,” he said. “I’m excited that I’ve been getting more opportunities in the penalty kill and just trying to do a good job. Hopefully, I can be trustworthy.”
Hakstol has been able to plug Donskoi up and down the lineup and he’s fit in.
Over the last three games, he’s played with Ryan Donato and newcomer Alexander True. The line has been dubbed ‘The Shark Line’ since all three players spent time with San Jose. The line has been what would be considered the fourth line for Seattle but has held its own.
They created the go-ahead goal in San Jose Monday and have generated six scoring chances while allowing seven against. They’ve created four high-danger chances and while they haven’t been a big scoring line, they’ve won shifts, especially on the past two road games where they were often matched up against the opponents’ top lines.
It’s hard to expect more out of a fourth line.
True is up with the team due to Colin Blackwell, Yanni Gourde, and Riley Sheahan being in COVID-19 protocol so the lifespan of the ‘Shark Line’ will most likely be short. Donskoi is the anchor of that line and can make those around him better.
When the Kraken get their full complement of players back, Donskoi will perhaps get to play on a more offensive line.
Every successful team has ‘glue’ guys on the roster. Guys who can chip in on different lines and in different situations. Donskoi has been that guy for the Kraken this year. At some point, the puck is going to go in the net for him and his hard work will be rewarded.
“He’s a pro and he wants to produce in that respect,” Hakstol said. “The biggest thing for him is just to keep doing things the right way. And I know that he’s confident enough as a veteran in this league to continue doing that and the first goal is going to come and hopefully a bunch will come after that.”
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