Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Sharks insider Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every weekday leading up to the start of training camp.
Name/Position: Joonas Donskoi, F
Salary cap hit: $925,000, pending restricted free agent
2015-16 year in review: It was a rookie game between the Sharks and Ducks last September when relative unknown Joonas Donskoi, signed as a free agent in May, opened everyone’s eyes. After he was the best player on the ice by a wide margin, Barracuda coach Roy Sommer quipped afterwards that he might not see Donskoi on the AHL roster.
Sommer was right. Donskoi made the Sharks out of camp, and after an adjustment period of a couple months, he finished with 11 goals and 25 assists for 36 points in 76 games and was named as the club’s rookie of the year. Donskoi was even better in the playoffs, with six goals and six assists for 12 points, including the overtime winner in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. Despite seemingly being a target by playoff opponents and taking some huge body checks, Donskoi continually picked himself up and kept going, making a number of huge plays during the Sharks' run to the Final.
Donskoi will compete for Team Finland in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey in Toronto.
2016-17 outlook: Throughout the second half of the season the chemistry between Donskoi and center Logan Couture got better and better, culminating in a strong playoff run for both. It’s highly likely that Donskoi will again find himself on the right wing – his natural position – of the Couture line, when training camp begins.
The expectations for Donskoi will be raised this year, of course, and a 20-goal, 50-point season should be well within his reach if he stays healthy. Donskoi is the right age and has all the tools to keep improving, and should be supremely confident after his strong playoff.
Although he’s still a bargain player for the Sharks at less than $1 million, Donskoi will be playing for his next contract. If he takes that next step in his development he will be in for a very nice payday next summer. Or, perhaps the Sharks try and ink him to a long-term extension much earlier than that. The Sharks are fortunate, too, in that they won’t have to protect Donskoi in next summer’s expansion draft, as this will only be his second professional season.