Sunday, April 19, 2015

Potential Overseas UFA's: Joonas Donskoi, winger, Kärpät, Liiga

With the season over for half the teams in the NHL, I'd figure we should take a look at some rumored players from overseas who are looking to come over to North America. Today we'll look at a former Florida Panthers 4th round pick currently playing in the Finnish Liiga: Joonas Donskoi
                                                  (I do not own the copyrights to this image)

Donskoi is a 6'0, 190 lb winger who can play both Right and Left Wing, (although he mainly plays Right Wing) originally selected in the 4th round (99th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Florida Panthers. On June 1, 2012 it was announced that "Donskoi and the Florida Panthers were unable to reach agreement on the coming season...(he) became a free player to move to any NHL club." (Indirect Source)

At first glance, the inability of a fourth round draft pick to reach an agreement with his agent and the NHL team that drafted him really raises some eyebrows. I don't know the entire extent of that story, in fact I know very little. I just know that an agreement was not made and Donskoi only played in North America at one rookie camp for the Panthers organization (2011 rookie camp).

In fact, Donskoi's been playing his entire professional career in Finland, playing for Karpat in the Finnish Liiga (highest professional hockey level in Finland) since he first cracked their roster in the 2009-2010 season. Donskoi is a very good skater and has phenomenal stickhandling / puck ability skills.

Since BlogSpot isn't showing the embedded EliteProspects table I'm trying to bring over, I'll just say what it says on his EliteProspects Page. Karpat is currently in the playoffs right now, but in the 58 regular season games played, Donskoi had 49 points (19G 30A). In 5 playoff games, Donskoi has 7 points (2G 5A).

These are the highlights from yesterday's game for Karpat. Donskoi is wearing number 72 in black. He scores a goal around the 1:30 mark. There's nothing really special about this goal. It comes on the powerplay, and he has positioned himself at the face-off circle to the right of the goalie. The goal is a result of crashing the net on a rebound and burying the second chance. If you watch the rest of the video, you can see Donskoi very active in the offensive zone.

For those wondering about the difference in helmet color, Donskoi is also wearing a gold helmet, which in most European leagues is designated for the team's highest point scorer.

While Donskoi has completely developed as a Liiga-type player, which is very different from the North American game, I think he has the potential to be a Top-9 winger for a few NHL teams. He's only 23 years old, and in my opinion, needs to add a little more muscle. He has made significant improvements in his two-way game, which will be the key to his transition. He may be able to fit in to an offensively-dry NHL team, but would benefit significantly from a year in the AHL as a stepping stone for more two-way and physical play. 

If Donskoi were to sign with a team, it would be an ELC (since he's 23, it would be a two-year ELC according to the CBA). Ideally, a spot for him would be a team where he is not completely relied upon for scoring, as he seems like a strong candidate for secondary scoring. As seen from the video below, he can also fill in as a shootout specialist if need be too. (It's a compilation of his shootout goals and attempts from the 2013-2014 season)

His best shootout move is to do a few forehand-backhand dekes and quickly slide the puck through the five-hole.

Donskoi seems like a solid option depth signing for a team that wants to take a risk on him. At this point, a two year long entry level contract is not much of a risk though. He needs the right kind of team balance to develop properly into a North American style player. Although I just mentioned that the terms of the contract are not a big risk, Donskoi, to me, seems like a player whose style is very risky to play in the NHL, in terms of success.

He's still young though! He's got time to learn, and it really looks like he has all the tools to be a successful as a top-6 NHL winger. Donskoi was drafted 13th overall in the 2010 KHL draft by Avangard Omsk, so he has that option as well. I don't see him staying in the Liiga after this season.

What do you think? Would you want your team to give Joonas Donskoi a look?

Who else should I write about? Be sure to comment or let me know via Twitter. Also don't forget to follow me @DTJ_AHockeyBlog for more articles. Thanks for reading!

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