is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his fellow 2008 draftees.
The 21-year-old defensive prospect spent last season with the University of Denver Pioneers before signing an entry-level contract and playing in six games with the AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers. As Donovan comes back for round four this week, he said his experience makes the trip to Long Island a lot more fun this time around.
“I think just knowing all of the guys a little more this year is great,” Donovan said. “I know all of those guys who played in Bridgeport. I know the coaches a little better. I think it’s just a familiarity, knowing most of the guys and just having fun with them.”
He attributes a strong draft class, which includes current Islanders Josh Bailey
, Matt Martin
, Travis Hamonic
and Kevin Poulin
, to helping push him to where he wants to be - in an Isles uniform.
|Islanders prospect Matt Donovan laughs as he talks to Rhett Rakhshani during an on-ice session of Islanders Mini-Camp at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday, July 13, 2011. |
“Martin and Hamonic are good to have here this week and good to look up to,” Donovan said. “Knowing they did it last year definitely gives me hope. Talking to those guys and getting to know what they did and how they got here gives me and the rest of us in ’08 that hope that it could be our turn soon.”
That 2008 group also includes Corey Trivino
, Aaron Ness
, David Ullstrom
and Justin DiBenedetto
, all of whom are attending camp this week. Being together all of these years also helps to make camp a more enjoyable experience.
“There are a bunch of us,” Donovan said. “All of us are pretty close, so that’s great. It’s good to have each other and go through this together.”
For Donovan, a player who grew up in Oklahoma where hockey is not very prevalent, making it to the NHL would be a dream come true; a dream he said hopefully comes true very soon.
“Not many hockey players come out of Oklahoma and go places,” he said. “My dad worked at a rink and still works there, so I was always at the rink. Obviously, that helped because I was always able to be there and improve.”
After moving to Dallas when he was 16 to play triple A hockey, he moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to play junior hockey for the RoughRiders in the United States Hockey League before starting his NCAA career at the University of Denver in 2009.
During his sophomore campaign with Denver in 2010-11, Donovan tallied nine goals and 23 assists before adding one goal and four assists in his six games with the Sound Tigers. Though his goal is to suit up for the Islanders, he said playing in Bridgeport would not be a disappointment.
Obviously you want to play in the NHL and that’s my goal. I think I have a good chance if I come into camp the way I should and play the way I can, but I’m not going to be put down by going to Bridgeport. I know going to Bridgeport would also be good for me. Whatever happens, happens. - Matt Donovan
“Obviously you want to play in the NHL and that’s my goal,” he said. “I think I have a good chance if I come into camp the way I should and play the way I can, but I’m not going to be put down by going to Bridgeport. I know going to Bridgeport would also be good for me. Whatever happens, happens.”
Between Oklahoma, Denver and Bridgeport, Donovan has moved around the United States quite a bit during his hockey career, but he wants to call Long Island home for a long time. There’s plenty of hope in him for that future.
“Hopefully, we get a new arena,” Donovan said. “Hopefully I’m in this organization for a long time. I hope they can get this referendum passed so we can get a new arena. Hopefully one day when I’m an Islander, I can have a brand new arena to play in.”
If the referendum is passed, a brand new arena could see Donovan and those fellow members of the 2008 draft class playing together in Islanders uniforms for quite a long time.