Which late-season call-up will make an impact in the playoffs?
Chris Peters, NHL prospects writer: I'm eager to see how Eeli Tolvanen fits in with the Nashville Predators, but I can't get over how smoothly Ryan Donato has transitioned to the NHL with the Boston Bruins. Watching Donato play during the 2018 Winter Olympics, it was evident that the 21-year-old was ready for the pro ranks, as he was Team USA's most dangerous forward in Pyeongchang. Making the jump to the NHL is another story, but the Harvard product -- whom the Bruins selected in the second round of the 2014 NHL draft, with the 56th overall pick -- has wasted no time making an immediate impact in the Bruins' lineup.
Donato has seven points, including four goals, in eight NHL games. He has shown a goal-scorer's touch and obviously has great offensive sense, based on how he positions himself and his ability to create whether he is below the faceoff dots or around the perimeter. Donato is also generating a lot of shots on goal, which was a staple of his college career at Harvard as well, and doesn't seem the slightest bit intimidated. It helps that he has veterans around him, but playing with -- and keeping up with -- established NHLers is no easy task no matter who you are. Especially when those players are rounding out into postseason form.
One other important factor in Donato's favor is that he played 34 games between Harvard and the Olympics, so he's probably as fresh as anyone on the team as Boston begins its playoffs push. The only question would be how he handles the rigors of a postseason grind. As a strong, well-conditioned 21-year-old, I don't think that should be a huge concern for Donato. I thought he'd be a helpful addition when the Bruins signed him to a two-year entry-level contract on March 14 -- but now I'm convinced he'll be a legitimate contributor this postseason.
Greg Wyshynski, senior writer: If we're asking which call-up I'm most interested in watching, that would be Lias Andersson, the New York Rangers' world-junior-medal-chucking forward and one of the cornerstones of their rebuild of indiscriminate duration. A fascinating player, even if his ice time might be limited given that he's young and Alain Vigneault is still coaching this team.
But the clear answer is Donato. As Chris notes above, Donato hit the ice in the NHL after playing extensively with Harvard and the U.S. Olympic team this season, so he's in midseason stride at a time when many players are checking to see how close to "E" they are on their fuel gauges.
Donato has played the last few games with David Krejci. Both of them are technically centers -- could we see Donato and Krejci playing with Rick Nash when the veteran winger is healthy? Good luck figuring out how to defend that line, and Boston's Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand-David Pastrnak line, in the postseason.
Emily Kaplan, national NHL reporter: Donato's seamless transition into the Bruins' lineup has made me excited about another U.S. Olympian heading to the NHL: Jordan Greenway, the former Boston University player who inked a three-year entry-level deal with the Minnesota Wild on March 26. The Wild had previously tried to sign Greenway after his sophomore season at BU, indicating that they have known for some time that he is capable of making the jump directly to the NHL.
While the speed of the pros might take some getting used to, the physicality should come naturally to Greenway, a 6-foot-6 winger who is a true power forward. That rugged play, of course, is a hallmark of the Stanley Cup playoffs -- especially in the Western Conference. (OK, maybe there's an adjustment period there, too. Greenway got a nice "welcome to the NHL" shove from Scott Hartnell during his debut game against the Nashville Predators last week. Give him time; it's been a hectic few days.)
I expect Greenway to be a big presence in front of the net. That should be welcome news for the Wild, a team that has played some very good hockey in the second half of the season, but seemed to be missing some offensive zest, scoring just 17 goals in their seven games before Greenway arrived. The good news is that Minnesota doesn't need Greenway to be the savior, or even a star. He's starting on the third line, alongside Matt Cullen and Charlie Coyle, and that seems like a good place for him right now. Greenway might just be a complementary player for the Wild during the playoffs, but it's all about depth this time of the year, and there's no question that he will make Minnesota's lineup better.