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New York Islanders Top 25 Under 25: Matt Donovan, #11 and expecting company

No, his uni number is not a reference to a Tool song. As far as you know.

"My shadow's shedding skin..."
"My shadow's shedding skin..."
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Donner Party was a group of adventure-seekers (oh sure, history called them "pioneers," but come on, who crosses the Sierra Nevada in the snow in 1846?) from Springfield who ended up stranded and resorting to -- according to some reports -- dining on each other's corpses.

Matt Donovan's just a hockey pioneer from Oklahoma. He hasn't done anything nearly so stupid (though some nights...the turnovers draw ire) but has become the first Oklhahoman NHLer.

The hope is that he remains so. (An NHLer, that is. The Oklahoman part is pretty much a given.) He turned 24 in May. They grow up so fast.

Donovan is due a qualifying offer this month and should receive one, no questions asked. He's now reaching that golden age where if he's not going to pan out then they should start to see it, and if he is then they have to set him free to show why he's worth hanging on to.

Personally, I think he'll make it to full-time NHL status -- even if circumstances and depth one day push him off the Island. Guys with his skills usually figure enough out to be useful to a team. Even when they have a Marc-Andre Bergeron-style weakness (he of 490 NHL games), they are useful. And with 52 NHL games last season (he'd previously had three), Donovan took a major step.

Our composite rankings put him at 11 on our New York Islanders Top 25 Under 25 countdown. How we voted (notable consensus here):

CIL Keith Mike B. Mark Mike L. Chris Dom
12 11 10 12 11 9 10

How we justified our votes:


Some ups and downs this season, but argument's can be made that he was misused and abused with partner selection. Owner of the best possession stats on the team IIRC. If he can clean up the defensive lapses (which at times are glaring), the Isles may have a draft steal.

Mike B.:

His mistakes were more evident than many, because it seemed like every one of them wound up in the net. His strong possession play is much less obvious but he was fifth in CorsiRel, third among defensemen.

Mike L.:

The greatest Oklahoman in the league! He can grip the stick too tightly at times, though, and the short leash he's apparently on doesn't help.


I like Donovan and his game, but I don't think the Isles are going to have the patience for his learning curve.


At one time, Donovan was my favourite junior level D prospect, b/c of his game. Problem is, that game has yet to fully translate to the NHL level. His skating and defensive positioning needs to improve if he is to be an NHL regular. If Donovan accomplishes this, I do believe he has the offensive skills that the points will come, particularly on the PP.

Should be a future PP specialist who puts up 30 plus points, can score 10 plus goals. May be a future trade chip, but I'd rank him 5th on the Isles current NHL D depth chart. Played his best hockey/was most effective when paired with Calvin de Haan.