One-on-One With Matt Donovan

Matt Donovan is currently in the second half of his first full season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. In 50 games played, the 6 foot, 202 pound defenseman has registered six goals and 25 assists for 31 points while maintaining a +11 rating.

Donovan has quickly become one of the Sound Tigers most reliable and contributing defenseman, playing with others such as Aaron Ness, Calvin de Haan and Ty Wishart. Selected 96th overall in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Donovan has been developing nicely. He had spent two seasons with the University of Denver before making his transition from college life to that of a professional hockey player. His best year with Denver came in 2011 where he scored 32 points from the blue line in 42 games. 

On the depth charts, Donovan looks as if to be one of the most well polished blue liners that the Islanders organization has groomed through their farm system. If he continues his play, this could be the last time Connecticut locals will see him in a Sound Tigers jersey. 

He and I talked about that possibility this afternoon over the phone. 

The Sound Tigers had a bit of a rough start but have turned things around this year by climbing the standings to second place in your division. Tell me a little bit about what sparked this turn around for you guys.

I think when we were losing, at the end of our losing streak, we were doing all the right things and we were kind of just not getting the right bounces we needed and Coach Thompson kind of just stressed that we needed to keep playing the way we were playing here and stick to our systems and honestly it worked. And now we're getting the bounces our way and we're playing hard and smart and sticking to the systems that he's taught us and it's all turning around for us.

Plenty of your defensive partners have spent time with the Islanders this season such as Aaron Ness, Calvin de Haan and Dylan Reese. Have you talked to them about their time with the big club and what they had to say about the NHL game?

I've talked to all of them about it. They said it's fun and it's different. They try to keep things a little more simpler up there. They said it's exciting so hopefully I'll get my chance sooner or later.

Speaking of your chance, as much as you like to see your teammates making strides in their development, has it been tough on you seeing them get the call while you're still waiting for yours?

Kind of but I'm just trying to be patient with myself and keep developing as a player and work on things I need to work on and I try not to worry about it too much, you know? I'm just trying to keep playing the way I've been playing recently and hoping that one day, hopefully soon, that my chance will come.

You come from a 2008 draft class that saw a lot of talent quickly join the NHL. Besides first rounders like Drew Doughty and Steven Stamkos, fellow class prospects Ness, Kevin Poulin, David Ullstrom and Travis Hamonic have either played in the NHL with a few appearances or become regulars. Does that inspire you further to make it with the Islanders so you can join your fellow classmen in displaying how great a year 2008 really was?

Definitely, all of those guys are very good players and I'm trying to follow in their footsteps and hopefully, someday soon, be in that position that they're in with the New York Islanders.

Do Garth Snow and Eric Cairns regularly check in with you throughout the season?

Eric Cairns, I talk to Eric Cairns a lot. Not so much Garth Snow. Eric Cairns was actually watching our games this past weekend and I talked to him a little bit but it's mainly him and not Garth Snow.

You spent some time playing at the University of Denver. Do you keep in touch with any former teammates or graduates that have made it to the NHL or AHL?

I've talked to a lot of guys. I talk to Tyler Bozak every now and then, plays for Toronto. He played at Denver before I was there. Matt Carle, plays for Philadelphia. I don't talk to him a lot but I keep in touch with his brother who was at Denver when I was there. Mainly I just talk to all the guys that are still there when I was there. I mean I'm really close with all those guys still, and the seniors that were there when I was there, all those guys are playing pro hockey. I keep in touch with pretty much everyone. We had a really good team there and a good group of guys, so most of them, we're still pretty good friends.

Besides the Islanders, which team were you rooting for this season and who do you expect to win the Cup?

(Laughs) My only team now is the Islanders. I mean I grew up in Oklahoma so I never really had a hometown team to root for so once I got drafted to the Islanders that's pretty much been my favorite team since.

What would you say is your favorite place to go out with friends when in Connecticut?

We stick around, I live in Milford with some of the guys so we usually go out to eat and stuff around here. So we don't stray too far away from Milford, usually.

What has been the toughest thing for you to adjust to as far as being a professional hockey player and no longer playing as a college student at the University of Denver?

I think consistency. I mean College you only play 40 games a season. Pro hockey players, it's such a grueling schedule and it's hard, it's really tough to play a consistent game day in and day out and play the way you should and play your best every night so I think I've just been trying to work on that this year, bringing my game to a more consistent level and play the best hockey I can every night.

Who has been the most challenging or most impressive skater in the AHL that you have either played with or played against that has really caught your eye?

That's a tough one. We got a lot of good players here in Bridgeport; Rhett Rhakshani, David Ullstrom. I played with Rhett in college, he was a senior and I was a freshman at Denver and when I got to Denver I thought he was the best player in the world. He still surprises me with the stuff he can do with the puck. But we have a ton of skill and a ton of good players on our team and all over this league so I can't really point out specifically one, but there's a ton of good players in this league.

What would you say is the most embarrassing thing to happen to you during a hockey game?

Embarrassing...hmm...I mean, I don't know. That's tough to think. I'm a defenseman and I've been walked pretty good by some skilled forwards so I think that's the most embarrassing part that I can think of right now. Yeah, I've seen my jock strap in the rafters a couple of times with some skilled guys coming down and making good moves on me. But I think that's all I can really think of right now.

Do you know Mike Flannery?

Yeah.

He writes for us here at TCL Isles. He's a big fan of you guys and had a very interesting piece on you, accusing you of theft on the ice with how great you have been at stealing the puck from opponents and transitioning into the play.

Yeah. (Laughs) I did see that one. I thought it was a good article. That was very well written.

If he keeps playing as well as he has lately, the only act of robbery will be the fact that the Islanders drafted a very well rounded defenseman in the fourth round. 

(All Photo Credit: svictoria29/Flickr). 

-Rob McGowan

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