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Photo Credit: Β© Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Nikolay Goldobin is a Free Top-Six Addition to the Canucks

It’s that time of the year again. November is here and it is kicking the crap out of the Canucks. With four games to go, the team has a record of 3-5-3, are averaging 2.54 goals a game through this tough stretch, and seem to only be able to win games when they score five goals. The stars have still been showing up to play this month, but they haven’t been shining as brightly as they did in October, and the team has taken a step back as a result.

The Canucks have shaken up their forward group recently, calling up Sven Baertschi, who could be part of the answer in the middle-six. Baertschi has looked good alongside Adam Gaudette and the energy on that line has been noticeable every game since they have been playing together, but that hasn’t been enough to turn the team’s fortunes around. That’s why it’s time for another playmaking AHL winger to make his season debut.

The Top 6 Needs a Goldy Touch

Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and JT Miller have slowed down since their hot start. The four best forwards on the team haven’t kept up the remarkable pace we saw from them in October. Tougher competition and 15 games in the month has combined to slow down the stars while simultaneously resulting in some injuries to depth players.

October (12 Games)

Name 5on5 Goals 5on5 Assist Powerplay Goals Powerplay Assist
Elias Pettersson 3 7 1 7
Bo Horvat 2 6 5 3
Brock Boeser 4 4 3 3
JT Miller 4 6 4 2

November (11 Games)

Name 5on5 Goals 5on5 Assists Powerplay Goals Powerplay Assists
Elias Pettersson 2 2 3 3
Bo Horvat 1 3 1 2
Brock Boeser 1 4 2 2
JT Miller 1 2 2 3

The Lotto line has been very effective for the Vancouver Canucks so far this season. The addition of J.T. Miller was a revelation earlier this year, as he appeared to be the perfect addition to the Canucks’ top line. The fact that he is able to slow down the play and execute at Pettersson and Boeser’s speed is the most noticeable thing for me. His forechecking is excellent and he creates havoc for defenders as they try to move the puck out.

While Nikolay Goldobin isn’t likely to help the Canucks in that last regard, he’s still basically a free addition to the team’s top-six, and his proven chemistry with Elias Pettersson would give the Canucks the freedom to move Miller down to the second line with Horvat and hopefully develop some chemistry with a player that has struggled offensively for most of the year at even-strength.

J.T. Miller is a versatile player and Goldobin isn’t. Miller is an important key in bringing Goldobin up to the first line because he can upgrade any line wherever he plays. Here are some examples of that that I noted in an article after the Canucks traded for J.T. Miller.

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I’m not here to tell you that Nikolay Goldobin is a better player than J.T. Miller. It’s obvious that he’s not. What I’m trying to do is explain that Goldobin can jump onto a line with Elias Pettersson and will immediately play like a top six player. Basically the Canucks can add a top six player for free by positioning Goldobin in the right spot in the lineup and moving around some of the other top six talent.

Make Pettersson Gold Again

Goldobin and Pettersson enjoy playing together, I spoke with Goldobin at training camp and I asked him what he liked about playing with Pettersson.

“We’re European.” he chuckled, “We are able to play European style hockey, we don’t like to chip in a lot of pucks. He’s just a great player, when I’m on the ice sometimes I’m in a position where I’m not supposed to be but there are openings and he see’s that, it’s great to play with him.”

I asked him about scoring so many goals from outside of the high danger scoring areas and what makes it possible to score so many goals from further away than the typical NHLer.

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“We’re trying to find open ice, it’s easier for players like us because we aren’t the biggest players. We’re not trying to be those type of players, we are trying to use our strengths and using open ice is how we are able to succeed.”

Here are a couple examples of Goldobin carrying the puck in with Pettersson on his line and executing a quick pass to set up an odd man rush goal.

Goldobin gains the zone instead of dumping the puck in and the other forwards immediately recognize that and create a passing lane to open up Brock Boeser for an easy tap in.

Goldobin puts Elias Pettersson into a scoring opportunity here and Pettersson makes no mistake and buries it short side.

A couple months ago at training camp I asked Elias Pettersson about what he liked about playing with Nikolay Goldobin.

“Well, he is a very skilled player, creates a lot of chances for me, I think we see the came pretty similar. It’s easy to play with Goldy, he can make a guy miss because he is very skillful.”

Pettersson likes to play with Goldy and it shows with his scoring stats.

Pettersson’s on-ice shooting percentage jumped up more than two percent when he was on the ice with Goldobin. It’s exactly what both Goldobin and Pettersson talked about at training camp. They both know how to open the ice up to create better shots. The problem is that many believe that better shots are the ones from the High Danger Scoring Areas. In this case it is not that at all, instead Goldobin is able to make Pettersson more dangerous, he understands where Pettersson will be on the ice and where he should go after making that pass.

These two players represent why chemistry is one of the most important aspects of being a productive NHL line. Making Pettersson the road that the line runs through should be a priority for the Canucks coaching staff when dealing with their superstar.

Here’s an example of Goldobin and Pettersson working together with Pettersson as the playmaker.

Pettersson actively makes himself available for the puck and when it lands on his stick he immediately knows where Goldobin will be for the easy tap in goal.

The two players both talked about how easy it is to play with each other, Goldobin can help expand the high danger scoring area for Pettersson and help maximize his goal-scoring output again. We have seen a noticeable amount of on-ice frustration this season from Pettersson. Whether it be a missed opportunity for a breakaway pass to EP40 or a pass in his skates on the powerplay.

Next time you are watching a Canucks game, think about how the play should revolve around Pettersson. Pettersson has the best scoring touch on this team and if the Canucks want to utilize that scoring touch to the maximum they should think about getting Goldobin on that line. Goldobin and Pettersson have chemistry on the ice and are great friends off the ice too, they did go to last year’s Halloween party as matching minions.

The Goldy Standard on the Powerplay

Even Goldobin’s biggest critics and the most fervent #FreeGoldy supporters should be able to agree that Goldobincan be an asset on an NHL team’s power play.

Goldobin can play both end board sides and has seen time in the bumper position as well. When Goldobin did get time with Pettersson last season, the powerplay was scoring at a 26.4% pace. The addition to Goldobin to the top power play unit would allow Green to go back to balancing his units by bumping Horvat or Miller down to the second unit. That’s not necessarily the plan that I would like to see, but it does give the team another option any time things aren’t clicking.

I’m fine with the first powerplay unit of Boeser, Pettersson, Miller, Horvat and Hughes. I think they need to have more fluidity with their positioning similar to a Tampa Bay Lightning or Vegas Golden Knights powerplay. Those five players work though, the Canucks have found some success with Adam Gaudette on the second unit, which took long enough since he was a stud at Northeastern and scored 98% of his goals from the left side on the powerplay.
(98% is not an accurate stat)

Here’s how Goldobin could help the second power play unit.

Goldobin is capable of making that cross ice pass to Gaudette to help increase his utility as a shooting threat. One of the most impressive things I have seen from Gaudette this year on the powerplay is his ability to realize when an offensive chance is coming. Gaudette can recognize when a scoring chance is coming and move out of position and towards the net. This type of positional fluidity could be great for Goldobin who is able to see when a player is about to make an attacking move towards the net.

Gaudette only needed a sliver of an opening to score this goal last Saturday and Goldobin has the vision and playmaking ability to make plays and score in traffic.

Here are some examples of Goldobin drawing in a man and making a great pass to set up a power play goal.

Goldobin can also be the player that carries the puck into the offensive zone, something that is tough for any team in the NHL. Here he moves the puck in after recognizing the penalty killers going for a line change and gets a quick scoring chance for Canucks great Markus Granlund.

His shot also looks as though it’s improved in Utica this year and he handles a bulk of the possession on the first unit down there right now. Looking through some powerplay time from last season Goldobin was effective in the bumper position and maybe if he does play on the first unit it could bump someone like Horvat or Miller to the second unit to play with the Gaudette group. Here’s Goldobin making a good move in the offensive zone and beating Henrik Lundqvist but not the post.

#FreeGoldy

I know that a majority of Canucks fans have probably given up on Goldobin by now. After failing to make an impact at training camp this year, he’s made a lot of people believe that he is just another good AHL player without an NHL future. In the long term, maybe that’s true. Maybe he doesn’t have enough playmaking ability to counterbalance his defensive deficiencies. In the short term, however, the team could use his playmaking abilities, and he could basically perform as a free top-six addition in a pinch. That’s worth exploring for team that’s had difficulty getting scoring from the middle of their lineup.

If Goldy shows up in Vancouver and the line of Goldobin-Pettersson-Boeser is able to continue scoring at a high pace and maintaining a positive goal share percentage, then this team gets a lot stronger on their second, third and fourth lines. If he comes here and gets a run with the Pettersson-Boeser duo and does not succeed, then at least I will finally shut up about it. That seems like a win-win to me.

Goldobin is an elite passer with quick hands and has a on-ice connection with the Canucks’ best player. That’s the perfect example of a top six call-up from the AHL. We shall see how the season shakes down, but if the Canucks were able to find some magic in a bottle with the Goldy-Petey-Boes line they are capable of using multiple different combinations to find the best way to utilize Bo Horvat and finally get him some consistent linemates.

The first line would have a change in dynamic as well. Right now it feels that Elias Pettersson is the playmaker of that line and with the addition of Goldobin we could see Pettersson become more of a shooter due to the (European style) one extra pass mentality that those two talked about at training camp.

Goldobin is currently signed to a one year, $900,000 contract and this could be his last season in the Canucks organization, especially if he isn’t given an NHL opportunity this season. Given the flashes he’s shown offensively over the course of his time in Vancouver, I think it would be a shame not to return to the well one last time and see if the organization can salvage some value from what was seen at the time as one of Jim Benning’s best trades.

I’ll go back into hiding about Goldobin now, but just know that Quadrelli is waiting in the wings, ready to bring the #FreeGoldy heat.