Date of birth: November 19, 1999
Hometown: Ypsilanti, Michigan
OHL Draft: Round 5, 96th overall, 2015 Priority Selection
The goaltenders eligible for the 2018 National Hockey League Draft plying their trade in the Ontario Hockey League this season is unlike a season ago. It’s a class that includes names like Mario Peccia (Kingston), Jordan Kooy (London), Jacob Ingham (Mississauga) and Marshall Frappier (Sudbury) among others.
And then there is Nick Donofrio of the Hamilton Bulldogs.
I know there will be readers out there that think “why is he beginning with Donofrio?”
Well, the answer is simple. If I can take everything I’ve seen in his limited playing time in Hamilton and apply one word, that word is “impressive”. Occasionally, a goaltender seems to come out of nowhere, one that few seem to be talking about early during the season and impresses me so much that I won’t stop talking about him. And if you followed along here a season ago or followed me on Twitter, you know that to be the case with a stopper named Matthew Villalta of the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds (Los Angeles Kings – 3rd round, 72nd overall in 2017).
That’s not to suggest that there was no chatter on Donofrio coming into this season. There definitely was. But a lot of that chatter when talking top goaltenders for the draft went to Ingham in what I believe is a class that is wide open.
As the backup to Kaden Fulcher, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Detroit Red Wings prior to the start of the NHL season, Donofrio is going to have very limited starts this season so you’d better make your viewings of him count, or you may just miss out.
Donofrio has only had three starts to date. After losing his first start in a shootout to the Niagara IceDogs, he’s beaten the North Bay Battalion and shutout the defending Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires. He’s stopped 68 of 73 shots he’s faced and has an excellent .932 save percentage to go along with his 1.62 goals against average.
Donofrio played Midget Hockey for the Compuware Under 15 squad during the 2014-2015 season and in 34 games posted an impressive 2.28 goals against average. He was equally impressive at the OHL Gold Cup for the TPH Thunder Minor Midgets with 1.00 goals against average in 2 games with a shutout. The Bulldogs would use their fifth-round selection and select him 96th overall at the 2015 draft.
Don’t let the fifth-round selection influence your opinion. As an American born player, there is always the possibility that a player could go the USHL route with an eye on the NCAA, thus dropping him a little in the draft. He was selected in the 10th round, 147th overall by the Des Moines Buccaneers at the USHL Futures Draft in 2015.
A season ago, Donofrio would continue his development with the Philadelphia Revolution of the EHL. Once again, his stats would be impressive posting a 2.00 goals against average and .921 save percentage in 25 appearances. He was ready for the OHL.
Donofrio has good size that NHL scouts seem to appreciate. He is a technically sound goaltender who relies more on that technique then pure athleticism. He is positionally sound, controls his rebounds extremely well, tracks the puck well, fights through traffic to find the puck, and rebounds quickly for second chance opportunities. His demeanor is that of an extremely calm netminder who never seems to get rattled. He plays with his emotions in check.
Donofrio gets to the top of his paint well. He plays his angles extremely well and remains square to the shooter. He’s not overly quick, but far from slow. His post to post movement is sufficient, but it’s more his technique that makes him stand out. He plays big in his crease and even when in his butterfly position he stands tall. And I love that he has the old school poke-check in his repertoire.
Speaking to those around him, Donofrio is a team first guy who is more concerned about team success than personal success, and at this level that speaks volumes. He knows and accepts his role and knows his time will eventually come. By all accounts, he has a very good relationship with Fulcher and he works hard to be ready when he’s called upon.
I asked good friend and the play-by-play voice of the Hamilton Bulldogs Reed Duthie to share his thoughts on Donofrio with me.
“Nick Donofrio has been a picture perfect backup for the Hamilton Bulldogs combining his tremendous sense of positioning with starter Kaden Fulcher’s outstanding athleticism. Donofrio is the type of netminder who will keep teammates and coaches at ease while frustrating opponents with his no frills style” he said.
Reed went on to say “Donofrio has an incredible sense of the net combined with quick reflex and clock like timing that make beating the OHL rookie very difficult. Nick’s biggest win of the season, a 2-0 shutout of the defending Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires, showed just what kind of upside the Ypsilanti native carries. Standing his ground under intense pressure from the like of Logan Brown, Aaron Luchuk & co, Donofrio made several key and timely saves to keep the Dogs out in front.”
Reed concluded “Nick will only continue to grow as his OHL time mounts, he has a keen awareness of how to use his 6’4” frame which goaltenders of his age usually haven’t developed & his sound fundamentals will mean that Head Coach John Gruden and the Bulldogs staff will have no issues relying on him to put in solid starts moving forward.”
This isolation video from his days with Compuware back in 2014 shows some of the qualities he possesses, even back then.
Eliteprospects.com Stat page of Nick Donofrio,