Draft a family affair for Donato

The NHL's scouting group, Central Scouting, had Ryan Donato at 58th in their final rankings of North American skaters, down slightly from 54 at the midseason ranking. One top NHL executive who is familiar with the 6-foot center's game praised his skill and hockey sense, but would like to see him improve his skating.

"I'd like to see more pace in his game," the executive told ESPN.com.

What isn't lacking, though, is perspective.

"Ryan is as nice a kid as we have," Danny said.

When we first talked to Ryan it was a few days before he was set to travel to Philadelphia for the draft.

"As of now it kind of feels surreal," he acknowledged. "We've been talking about it for quite a while now."

But now that the draft is here, the seats assigned for the first round and the suits purchased, there is an understanding that these next few days have the potential to be life-changing.

Of course, Ryan has an understanding of this process and what lies beyond that is different from the majority of the teens who will be selected, in that he understands the life that so many of them aspire to, and understands the perspective that is needed with being drafted.

The constant message from his family, especially parents Ted and Jeannie, is that being drafted is an honor, but it won't change the person Ryan is or how much work he has to do to fulfill his dreams. Or it shouldn't, at least.

Lots of talented kids get drafted and never make it, Ryan points out. And lots of guys who don't get drafted at all find a way. Committing to Harvard, following in his father's footsteps and also choosing to play for him, was a process, too.

Ryan said it grated on him that some schools simply assumed he'd go to Harvard, but when he started getting inquiries from schools like Boston University he began to look at Harvard in a more clinical light, ultimately deciding that was where he wanted to play and learn.

"After I committed I can truly say I was happy with my decision," Ryan said.

Ted jokes that most of his 'coaching' of his elder son has come from the couch or after games, but it's clear that important life lessons have been passed on from father to son. This weekend in Philadelphia the application of those lessons will be on display for the entire hockey world to see when Ryan is called to the stage his father never stood on, feeling the weight of an NHL jersey on his shoulders for the first time.

"It's pretty neat," Ted said. "For a long time you just try and preach patience and work ethic and focus just on getting better."

"My job is to make sure that everything's in perspective and that he realizes there's a lot of work to do," he added.

And like any parent, he wonders what will happen if his son doesn't get called as early as he'd hoped.

"It's a nice honor for him and I think we just want to be there for him, not as a former NHLer or as a coach, but a parent," Ted said.

So far, so good for the young man who used to call himself 'Hockey-nato' and the father who swam his way through a draft all those years ago.

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