Offensive talent is something the Devils system lacks. With only a handful of players who even have a shot at the next level among current Devils prospects, fans of New Jersey's hockey club are practically starving for some offensive firepower on the horizon. If you are among one of those fans, you may be hoping for Nikolay Goldobin to slide to the Devils at #30 in this year's NHL Draft.
Who is Nikolay Goldobin?
Nikolay (or Nikolai, depending on where you look him up) Goldobin is a forward who currently plays for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. He was born October 7, 1995 in Moskva, Russia and came over to North America to play in Canadian juniors prior to the 2012-13 season. Based on the info over at Elite Prospects, he stands at 6'-0" and 185 pounds, so while he's not necessarily a big player, he has plenty of size for a winger. After spending a year in Russia's junior league, the MHL, Goldobin jumped to Canada to play in the OHL, likely with an eye on a future career in the NHL.
His stats are pretty impressive in the OHL, thus far. In his first season in major junior as a 17-year-old, he was able to put up a point per game and finished third on a decent Sarnia team in points, behind overager Charles Sarault and a guy you may know of by the name of Reid Boucher. Goldobin, as a good prospect should, took it to the next level this past year in his second season with the Sting, putting up 94 points, good for 7th in the entire OHL, behind mostly overagers and 2015 next big thing Connor McDavid. The only 2014 draft-eligible player to finish with more points was Michael Dal Colle.
So with him among the leaders in production for what appears to be the strongest junior league in this year's draft, it's at least a little curious to see him down at #24 in the CSS North American rankings, #28 overall in the ISS rankings, and #28 in Corey Pronman's rankings at ESPN (pay wall there, unfortunately). So beyond the scoring, there are likely some flaws to be found. For one, he is old for this draft, as being born a month earlier would have seen him go in last year's draft. There are also some concerns with his defensive commitment and his strength along the boards. Consistency is also a concern that has been mentioned as well as the always fun Russian Factor. Overall, he really does seem like a big talent, though, and there is a lot to like about the offensive side of his game.
What Others are Saying About Goldobin
Goldobin is a talented forward who immediately produced as a 17-year old in the OHL in 2012-13 so he's been on a lot of scouts' radars for a while. Here's the blurb they have on him from August 2013 at Elite Prospects:
Goldobin is a dangerous shooter with a wicked release on his wrist shot. He is quick and creative and can make defenders look foolish. He's weak against bigger opponents and can look lost in his own zone but is extremely dangerous and can quietly slide into prime scoring areas. (August 2013)
With his scoring numbers for 2013-14, it appears that dangerous shot was in extensive use this past season. As mentioned, Goldobin was 7th in the OHL in scoring this season and, digging in further, he was actually 2nd among the 2014 draft class. There are concerns about his defense, and a minus-30 rating won't necessarily quell those fears for some people, but he was on a dreadful team this season, as Sarnia was last in the league and finished with 8 fewer points than the second-worst team in the league.
Over at The Hockey Guys, Todd Cordell put together a thorough analysis of Goldobin's skills (a good, quick read on him) and praised his offensive abilities while noting some weaknesses. Some snippets include:
Nikolay Goldobin is one of the most offensively gifted players in this year’s draft class. He has a good first three steps, and reaches top speed quickly.
He can beat defenders numerous ways, and has a good inside-out move.
Goldobin is a great passer, and has excellent vision, as he always finds lanes to get teammates the puck when they don’t look to be available.
Goldobin will need to add strength to his frame, as he struggles against bigger players along the wall and gets pushed off the puck easily at times.
There's a lot to like, overall, there and Goldobin seems like a supremely offensively talented hockey player. He has speed, a very good shot, great vision as passer, elusiveness, and the list seems to go on and on. A team looking for offensive skill in their system (cough, cough) would do very well to grab a player like this.
His flaws come along the boards where he can apparently be muscled off pucks when he is in corners, and there is more mention of his difficulties in the defensive end. There are definitely concerns with the one-dimensional aspect, but if you want offensive talent like this late in the first round, you will have to accept some warts to go along with it.
One more piece, from Mike Morreale at NHL.com actually has some mention of a well-rounded game for Goldobin, though:
The 5-11.5, 178-pound Goldobin is considered a very creative player with a solid two-way game. The left-handed shooting Russian is second on the team with 33 points.
"[Goldobin] has a high energy and is smooth out there," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said. "He's got good playmaking ability and he probably would have a lot more points if players were able to finish for him. He doesn't always need the puck, but he sets up linemates.
"He's the type of kid who receives a lot of ice time because he plays a complete game."
So it looks like there may be at least some level of disagreement among scouts. General consensus and ranking seems to indicate there are flaws in Goldobin's game, and this particular piece is from back in the fall, so opinions may have evolved, but there's at least some evidence that he might not be totally lost without the puck.
Here is a pretty decent highlight video of Goldobin from last year. If you aren't currently at a rave, you might want to turn your speakers down a bit for this one.
And here's a pretty filthy goal from this year (via Buzzing the Net):
That was a whole lot of people looking silly.
An Opinion of Sorts
If you are in the Devils' position at pick #30 in this year's draft, I think you have to be excited at the possibility of Goldobin falling to you. For a team with little in terms of offensive upside among their prospects, this would have an immediate impact on their system. He seems to possess all the tools to make things happen on offense, with a great wrist shot, top notch passing skills and awareness, and speed and agility on his skates. The one drawback to his game seems to be a weakness along the boards and some troubles in his own end.
There is something to be said for a defensively responsible forward, but that is not really what the Devils are aching for right now. Yes, he seems to fit the old "enigmatic Russian" stereotype (almost uncomfortably so), but he appears to be a talent that ranks among the top players available on offense. I get the feeling that someone will grab him before he reaches the Devils, but the so-called Russian factor has seen players slip as recently as Valeri Nichushkin falling to 10 in last year's draft. If he is available at 30, he seems like someone the Devils should seriously consider pulling the trigger on and consider themselves lucky to do so. Defensive positioning can be taught; top-end offensive skills and vision cannot.
So what are your thoughts on Goldobin? Would you want the Devils to draft him if he falls to #30? Sound off in the comments below and thanks for reading.