SAN JOSE, Calif.--The Colorado Avalanche only makes one trip to Northern California this year, and it's a date that has been circled on Joonas Donskoi's calendar since last July.
Donskoi spent four NHL seasons with the San Jose Sharks and will have his first chance at facing his former team this evening at SAP Center.
"After I signed with the Avs, that was the first thing I looked up," Donskoi said after morning skate. "Seeing that it's all the way back into March when we come here, feels like a long time."
The last time that the Avs were in San Jose was Game 7 of the Round 2 matchup between the Avalanche and Sharks, and Donskoi scored the game-winner for the team in the home dressing room.
Video: Joonas Donskoi on being back in San Jose
Colorado has played San Jose since the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, however. The teams met at Pepsi Center on Jan. 16, a 4-0 win for the Avalanche, but Donskoi missed the game with a head injury.
"It's weird, its first time in my career to kind of play against my old team," said Donskoi. "It was kind of fun yesterday, just hanging out with my teammates and seeing the city again. Tonight, going to play against the Sharks, so it is going to be fun."
Donskoi was selected by the Florida Panthers in the fourth round (99th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft but signed with San Jose as a free agent in May 2015. He appeared in 283 career NHL games with the Sharks, recording 122 points (45 goals, 77 assists). The Raahe, Finland, native also dressed in 50 career playoff contests and notched 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists).
"The years that I played here, we always had a good team, we always had a chance at success," Donskoi said. "My first year, we went to [the Stanley Cup] Final, we almost had it. A lot of good memories on the ice, but then off the ice [there were] so many people throughout the organization who work there and also the fans, people in the city--so many lifetime friends I have here now. Met my fiancée here too, so a lot of good memories from here."
During his first NHL season in 2015-16, he skated in all of San Jose's 24 playoff contests and helped the Sharks reach the Stanley Cup Final. He ranked second among league rookies with 12 postseason points (six goals, six assists) and became just the sixth rookie in NHL history to score an overtime goal in the Final when he netted the game-winner in Game 3 of the series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Donskoi signed with the Avs as a free agent on July 1, 2019, and has played in a number of different roles with Colorado. He has been moved around the lineup as the team has dealt with injuries and has spent time on both special-team units. He is averaging a career-high 16:20 of ice time per game, almost a minute and a half more than he did in any previous campaign.
"Especially as a new guy coming in and with some of our key injuries early in the year, he got elevated and played first line with [Nathan] MacKinnon and picked up a bunch of different roles for us and did a great job," Avs head coach Jared Bednar said of Donskoi. "He is a versatile guy, like we move him around a bunch, he is playing both power play and penalty kill at times, anywhere from our first to our third line. We have a number of guys like that, but he is certainly one of the guys that has really helped us through that."
Donskoi has recorded 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists) in 62 contests with Colorado this year. His 15 tallies are his most in a single season and his 32 points are five shy of his career high of 37 that he set last campaign.
"It's been a fun year, I have been having a lot of fun," said Donskoi. "It was kind of easy to come into this team. Everybody has been super nice to me and kind of make me feel at home right away."