Hi, My Name Is ... Matt Donovan
Every once in a while, you end up hearing about a top freshman player in the college game. It's tough for the highly-touted to meet expectations. For Denver freshman defenseman Matt Donovan (NHL rights: N.Y. Islanders), it's clear that he is well on his way to surpassing the high expectations he brought with him to college.
The fourth-round pick from 2008 hails from Edmond, Okla., hardly a hotbed of hockey talent. Donovan played two seasons with Cedar Rapids (Iowa) of the United States Hockey League, and also has international experience with Team USA.
He played in 17 of Denver's 18 games over the first half of the season, scoring twice and adding seven assists. Those nine points rank him second overall among Denver's defensemen, and he is the highest-scoring freshman on the team so far.
His stock is only going to rise as he moves forward. Donovan was one of 11 defensemen on the preliminary roster for Team USA's entry in the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championships, which begin Dec. 26 in Saskatchewan.
If his play this past weekend during a series against Minnesota Duluth is any indication, one has to like his chances of making the final cut.
Donovan was a huge factor in Denver's weekend split against UMD, collecting two assists and rating as a plus-two. He moves the puck well, with a great first pass, and he has very good poise in his own zone. Donovan isn't terribly big, and he could use a bit more speed, but he has all the intangibles of a top offensive defenseman.
Already, his poise, vision, and passing skill make him a tough guy to forecheck. He'll only be more dangerous when he improves his skating.
Moving forward, Donovan has a great chance to play some high-level international hockey. The World Juniors are about as big as it gets for non-professional international events. Even if he doesn't make the team, Donovan should return to Denver a better player for the experience of trying out.
If he keeps getting better, Donovan will eventually have a chance to make an impact with the Islanders, a young team that is only going to improve as the young prospects develop.
Other Players to Watch
In that Denver-UMD series, the Bulldogs triumphed Saturday 6-3 behind the play of two sophomores named Connolly. Jack Connolly and Mike Connolly (both undrafted) each had three points in the game, with Jack scoring twice while Mike assisted on three goals. Denver won 3-2 Friday thanks to junior goalie Marc Cheverie (Florida), who stopped 28 shots and made some dazzling saves as the Bulldogs tried to rally in the third period.
It's safe to say that Miami junior Tommy Wingels (undrafted) had a nice weekend. Wingels scored the first four goals of a 6-0 shutout at Ohio State Friday night, then assisted on the fifth. For good measure, Wingels added an assist as Miami won 4-2 Saturday to complete the home-and-home sweep.
Michigan State's sweep of Bowling Green was keyed by the play of junior Corey Tropp (Buffalo). He had a goal and an assist Friday, then picked up a natural hat trick to rally the Spartans to a 4-1 win Saturday. Tropp is up to 16 goals and 27 points in MSU's first 20 games.
We're going to take a break from college hockey analysis for the next couple weeks, as the sport takes a break for the Christmas holiday. Next week, catch our preview of the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championships, then join us for coverage of the tournament. Hi, My Name Is ... returns Jan. 5.