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Most intriguing Canucks, #3: Nikolay Goldobin

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The enigmatic Russian is entering a make it or break it season.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver Canucks forward Nikolay Goldobin (77) celebrates his goal against Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo (70) (not pictured) during the second period at Rogers Arena.
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

With training camp officially over, puck-drop on the Canucks official (fake) season begins tonight. That means I can’t really call this series “Most Intriguing Canucks at camp” anymore, but I still have three names I’m really watching over these next seven games.

Next up on my intrigue meter is enigmatic Russian, Nikolay Goldobin.

Where He Left Off

Goldobin began his season in Utica after a middling preseason, but earned a call-up after a strong showing in Utica. Head coach Trent Cull lauded Goldobin’s ability to play in all situations, including the penalty kill. He earned his first call-up to the Canucks in November.

With the Canucks, Goldobin played in a career high 38 games, putting up 14 points in the process. Those aren’t earth shattering numbers for a player with such good offensive instincts, but it’s important to remember that Goldobin averaged only 12:20 per game throughout the season. He also averaged the 11th-most ice time of all forwards on the power play, with guys such as Markus Granlund and Reid Boucher ranking ahead of him.

It might be early, but it looks like Green will give Goldobin a shot in preseason to showcase is creativity on the power play.

Travis Green clearly wanted Goldobin to earn his time on the power play. Judging by his ice time there, he wasn’t able to do so.

It’s not hard to blame Green if he had displeasure with Goldobin’s wildly unreliable production. The 22-year-old’s game log looked roughly like this.

  • Two points in three games
  • Five games without a point
  • Two points in two games
  • Six games without a point
  • Two points in one game
  • Three games without a point
  • One goal
  • Six games without a point

That takes us to Goldobin’s final 11 games, where he was slightly more reliable with four goals and seven points. That’s the kind of pace Goldobin will need to score at if he’s going to have a bigger role next season.

Where He Sits Now

This has widely been considered one of the most competitive Canuck preseasons in years.

No, that’s just just because fitness fiend Jay Beagle is in town.

Preseason should be so competitive not necessarily because of talent, but because of the sheer number of bodies who could crack the NHL. With 33 forwards taken to training camp, you could probably make an argument for 20 of them to make this team.

Vancouver Canucks v Washington Capitals
Nikolay Goldobin #77 of the Vancouver Canucks skates with the puck against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on January 9, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Of those 20, there are arguably four spots available in the top-six, which looks more like three if you include Elias Pettersson in that mix. With his tantalizing skill set, Goldobin is certainly one of those guys who could crack the top six.

Last season, Goldobin’s most common linemate at even-strength was Bo Horvat. That’s a partner that the young Russian would certainly be willing to play with again. At even-strength, Horvat and Goldobin had a 54.7% Corsi together. Without Horvat, Goldobin’s Corsi was a shade above 42%.

Season Outlook

It’s not a good look for Goldobin that he’s only successful playing with talented players. On the flip side, if Goldobin is going to make this team, you want to give him the best possible chance to succeed.

Now that he’s waiver eligible, it seems unlikely that Goldobin gets send down to the minors. That would be foolish asset management by Canucks management. However, that doesn’t mean he will be gifted a spot in the top-six. He hasn’t separated himself as one of Green’s favourite players, so he will really have to shine if he wants to play alongside some of the Canucks best players.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver Canucks forward Nikolay Goldobin (77) gets back on his feet after colliding with the Arizona Coyotes during the first period at Rogers Arena.
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

If that’s going to happen, Goldobin will need to improve in his own end. He has the highest scoring chances against total of any regular Canuck forward last season.

To bring a glass half-full approach to his defensive play, the next worst-Canuck in terms of giving up scoring chances was Brock Boeser. Now, Goldobin isn’t Boeser, but he can look to the Calder nominee for inspiration. If Goldobin can become an impact player on offence for the Canucks, there will be some leniency with his defensive play.

He has enough wizardry with the puck to make it happen, as long as he plays his game. If his offence doesn’t shine through and his defensive play doesn’t improve, his tenure in Vancouver, and possibly NHL career, won’t last much longer.