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Islanders Top 25 Under 25: #10 Matt Donovan, the Streit Replacement?

After two AHL seasons, the Oklahoman and U. of Denver product is positioned to take an NHL role.

"See you in the big leagues."
"See you in the big leagues."
Bruce Bennett

Despite our best efforts and pleas, the New York Islanders refuse to make their roster decisions to fit the editorial schedule of humble little fan sites such as this one.

But they threw us a bone with this week's Mark Streit trade, as today's Top 25 Under 25 entry is Streit's implied replacement on the blueline.

Matt Donovan checks in at #10 on our spring 2013 rundown of Islanders properties under 25 years old. On the surface, it's a risky proposition to replace a former top defenseman -- who is about to command $5 million-plus per year in free agency -- with a player who has all of three games of NHL experience.

But if that's the plan, at least Donovan has gone through a pretty thorough internship.

Jumping to the pros after two years in the NCAA, Donovan has put up over 0.5 points per game over his first two seasons with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He arguably would have been ready for the NHL in the 2012-13 season, but the lockout and a post-lockout preseason waiver binge gave the Islanders the luxury of letting Donovan cook a little longer in the AHL.

Donovan (AHL) GP G A Pts Sh +/- PIM
2011-12 72 10 35 45 119 +11 63
2012-13 75 14 34 48 151 +14 112

Obviously, the results have been good. Donovan was drafted for his offensive instincts and puck management, and that part of his game has stayed true. He's been able to use the last two seasons to adapt to playing defense against pro players.

To be fair, Donovan won't exactly be asked to replace everything Streit did, at least not without showing he can do it first. But a power play and third-pairing role seems like doable assignment for him at age 23. Long term, if he doesn't pass the test, the Isles have many blueliners in the pipeline who will be competing for jobs soon.

In his season-ending wrap, Connecticut Post beatwriter Michael Fornabaio asked Donovan about the turning point for him this season:

“I had a couple of meetings with the coaching staff kind of going over stuff I needed to focus on — really focus on. … I think the meetings really helped me see where I needed to focus.

“I didn’t have the start I wanted this year, but I think I finished the way I wanted to — definitely improved. That’s kind of what I want to do.”

Here's how our panel ranked Donovan in our poll:

CIL KQ MikB Mark David MikeFIG Chris Dom
10 12 13 12 12 7 8 7

Chris "some comments" McNally:

Donovan gets my nod over Hickey because of his offensive promise and the nod over Reinhart because he's much closer to contributing at the NHL level. Donovan is coming off his second straight successful AHL campaign. No matter what the pro-level, 10+ goals and 45+ points from a d-man in two consecutive seasons, while providing quality defense, is quite impressive. Expect Donovan to take the next step in 2013-14, playing on Long Island.

FIGmeister Mike:

I don't think there's much more for him to do in Bridgeport. He should get a shot next year. Given his size and ability to put points on the board, here's hoping he'll stick. Ideally, with the potential of other prospects being even brighter, Donovan becomes one helluva No. 5 d-man.


Good second full season pro. Will be an NHLer but his dramatic rise in PIMs cause me to worry a bit.

Our poll was conducted before the Streit trade and most comments collected before it was 100% clear Streit would not be back, but you can see how signs pointed this way for Donovan. The Oklahoman is still young -- he turned 23 in May -- and is rising up our list here because he's more than likely about to join the core of (mostly) NHL regulars at the top of our list.

25U25 Spring 2013 Countdown (names link to each 25U25 entry)

11: W David Ullstrom

12: C Johan Sundstrom

13: d Thomas Hickey

14: d Ville Pokka

15: d Calvin de Haan

16: F Anders Lee

17: d Scott Mayfield

18: g Kevin Poulin

19: d Adam Pelech

20: d Andrey Pedan

21: g Anders Nilsson

22: W John Persson

23: W Kirill Kabanov

24: d Aaron Ness

25: d Brenden Kichton

More: The Outsiders