Photo Credit: Bob Frid - USA TODAY Sports

Canucks Army Year In Review: Nikolay Goldobin

The strength of a team’s prospect pool is usually inversely correlated with winning, and the Canucks are no exception. As Vancouver establishes itself as a perennial bottom feeder, the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter year by year.

The pressure of that optimism bears on the shoulders of the young prospects eager to solidify themselves as NHL regulars. It’s exciting for fans to hear about the next crop of young guns looking to make waves, but equally important is tracking the progress of those that have already arrived.

One of those players under the microscope is Nikolay Goldobin, a former 2014 first-round pick acquired by the Canucks at last year’s trade deadline for Jannik Hansen. The 22-year-old Russian had already established himself as a prolific minor league scorer, posting 41 points in 46 AHL games prior to joining the Canucks’ organization.

The concern heading into this season was that Goldobin hadn’t translated his success to the NHL level, where he owned just five points in 21 career games — 14 of the games with the Canucks. Therefore, the goal was for Goldobin to make his mark as an NHL regular — an objective that yielded underwhelming results up until a month ago.

The pessimism may have been premature, as Goldobin notched four goals and seven points to close out the final 11 games of the season. Overall, he tallied 14 points in 38 games, which turns out to a 30 point scoring pace if prorated over a full season. It’s made all the more impressive when you consider that Goldobin averaged just 12:20 TOI per game.

There’s an argument to be made for an increase in ice-time, but a combination of improved play and injuries already had Goldobin on that path — a trend that should carry over to next season if he maintains the same level of play.

The uptick in ice-time is important, but so to was Goldobin’s regular inclusion in the lineup period. Injuries certainly forced Canucks head coach Travis Green’s hand, but credit to the first-year coach for giving Goldobin opportunities on the top-line in Brock Boeser’s absence, in addition to increased powerplay time.

Goldobin was very efficient with the increased opportunities, finishing behind Bo Horvat as fourth highest on the team when looking at five-on-five primary points per hour.

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The team as a whole was significantly more effective offensively with Goldobin on the ice; taking shot attempts from high danger areas at a higher rate relative to the club’s average.

Vancouver’s offensive potency with Goldobin deployed is statistically backed as well, with the 22-year-old possessing the second and third highest rates on the team for producing unblocked shot attempts and scoring chances.

All that shouldn’t come as a surprise given Goldobin’s offensive toolkit, but where one does ask questions is with his traditionally inconsistent defensive game. He’s been criticized in the past for lack of engagement away from the puck, weak effort along the boards in puck battles, and poor overall defensive awareness. Those concerns appear valid to some degree when looking at both game footage and underlying metrics; the latter of which we’ll analyze today.

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Goldobin was plagued with terrible defensive luck, owning a team-low .881 on-ice five-on-five save percentage– one that’s not even close to the second lowest .907 mark held by Chris Tanev.

Having said that, Goldobin’s team-worst expected goals against rate tells us that his defensive game was porous even when accounting for his tough luck. What the aggregate data doesn’t highlight though, is the strides he made away from the puck as the season went on. Fortunately, we can split the data to shed some light on those improvements.

Normally I wouldn’t put so much stock into a 15 game sample, but the eye test checked out too, with legitimate indications that Goldobin was learning from his prior mistakes.

Another encouraging sign is that he had a positive impact on most of his teammates’ ability to control possession.

Particularly interesting is the chemistry that he seemed to find with Bo Horvat who also happened to be his most common linemate.

The duo controlled 54.8% of shot attempts in 200 minutes TOI together, with both suffering dramatically when playing away from each other. Goldobin was hit hardest, controlling just 42.8% of shot attempts without Horvat, though the latter’s Corsi % dropped nearly 10% away from Goldobin as well.

The numbers look even better when you add Brock Boeser to the equation.

Goldobin, Horvat, and Boeser only spent 56 minutes together, but the underlying metrics tell us that they did extremely well together. The on-ice numbers also suggest that Goldobin complemented the top-line with Horvat and Boeser better than Sven Baertschi.


Nikolay Goldobin made some definite strides this season, improving on both sides of the ice as the season wore on. He gave the Canucks efficient even-strength scoring while contributing to the team’s overall ability to retain puck possession.

If Goldobin can continue to play like he did down the stretch, there’s no reason to believe that he can’t be a regular top-9 contributor next season. With the Sedins hanging up the skates next season and Sven Baertschi’s future up in the air, Goldobin will certainly get every opportunity to make that happen.

  • TheRealRusty

    While not a core player, he still is useful to a rebuilding team. I see him as a 0.5 /game player much like Baertschi. The trader in me recommends a pump and dump strategy to handle this player. Either play him with Bo and Brock or in another scoring line with 1st unit PP time to inflate his value, and dump when other prospects are ready to take over his spot. Should net us an early 2nd or late 1st if we play our cards right.

    • What’s the end game here, though?

      The argument for trading Baertschi makes sense, as he’s older, due for a raise, and may be starting to age out by the time this group is competitive, but Goldobin is not yet in his prime and is a cost-controlled RFA for several more seasons. Why trade him for a low 1st/high 2nd that only nets you a roughly 25% chance of finding a similar player? Goldobin’s the right age for this team, he’s shown significant improvements in his game and chemistry with some of the Canucks’ best players – “pump and dump” makes no sense here.

      • TheRealRusty

        My bad. I should have clarified that Goldie is in the short term plan of 3-4 years (not just a pump and dump for next year). In the past, I have advocated giving him more ice time as I like the speed and skill that he brings. I see him as a Mayson Raymond type player, that can give you 20 goals and 40-50 points. He will be a useful forward for us in the short term. His current contract ends after next season and if we can sign him to a reasonable 2-3 year bridge deal than by all means extend him. But i will caution on signing to a huge contract to buy up his UFA years as I dont see him as a piece of the core. I would advocate trading him before we are placed in a Gundy type situation where we have to sign him or lose him fir nothing.

        • If Goldobin can put up 20 goals and 50 points, by all means sign him long term. He hasn’t shown that yet and I don’t think any GM would give him a six-year contract based on the numbers he’s put up so far.

    • Not a fan of Goldobin (yet) and not a fan of “pump and dump” for picks either. However, if Goldobin’s potential as a scoring winger can be used in a trade package that can net us a Top 4 defensive candidate, Benning should explore that. Baerschi and Goldobin for Klefbom or Nurse? I’m specifically referring to a desperate Chiarelli again. That uses some of Benning’s “surplus” and fills a major hole in the line-up. Ideally, I’d want Nurse but we may get Klefbom on the cheap due to his recent play and surgery (i.e. Edler 2.0).

        • Why not? Edmonton has traded in terms of Phillip Larsen, which didn’t work out. But Chiarelli traded an elite winger in Hall for a Top 4 defenceman and gave away Yakupov and Eberle. Can’t see why he wouldn’t trade one of them for middle-6 scoring wingers. As he said “he’s feeling the heat” and is pretty reliable when it comes to making very bad trades.

          • TD

            Don’t get me wrong, I would love the Canucks to get Nurse. Hall for Larsen quoted as showing the value of a good d man. They have much more value than wingers. Eberle was a salary dump and no one wanted Yakupov.

          • Chiarelli tries to patch holes as he’s digging them. He needed a defenceman and gave away Hall. He “needed” cap space to protect against a Draisaitl offer sheet and blew it (I think the next day) on a $4Mx4 Kris Russell deal. Now he’s getting heat for not having wingers to compliment McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH so that seems to be the next area of opportunity.

          • truthseeker

            Why not? Because top 4 D is worth way more than wingers. I’m not sure how you can be misreading the market so badly.

            The Hall trade goes against your argument. It took the best winger in the game at the time to bring back at best a 3/4 D man who may have had top pairing “potential”.

            The shattenkirk trade (a rental) cost the caps a fortune in assets.

            Look what it cost the lighting for McDonagh and Miller. Namestnikov, two 20 year old prospects who were 1st and 2nd round picks respectively, this years 1st rounder, and a conditional 2nd rounder. It could be argued that Namestnikov and maybe the second round prospect balances out Miller. I think that’s being more than generous. That’s still a huge cost for McDonagh.

            Columbus had to give up a young 70 point 25 to 30 goal scoring number one center just to get Seth Jones, who at the time of the trade was good but still unproven as a top D man. Sure closer in value than the Hall trade but still a case of D costing more than what was coming back.

            He may make bad trades, but based on the Hall trade I think his understanding of the value of D in the NHL is pretty much on point. So much so he felt the need to over compensate with Hall.

            No way a guy like that is giving up a top D man on his team for any of our any two of our wingers outside of Boeser.

          • I’m not misreading the market for wingers. Understand that I’m targeting Chiarelli in particular, not other teams. He needs wingers desperately and we have a surplus of Top 9 wingers. If we count Pettersson and Dahlen, we’d have 11 players that can play in the Top 9. Chiarelli makes epic bad trades and we need payback for Phillip Larsen. The Oilers have zero prospect wingers that are NHL ready. They’re rushing Puljujärvi and Yamamoto, hoping that they can stick after being drafted. It’s not working for them. Outside of Lucic, who is already on a steep decline, they have a bunch of fourth liners and AHL/KHL rejects. They’re playing centres like Strome, RNH and Draisaitl on wing because they don’t have any options. Moreover, the wingers need to be cost-controlled. If we had an opportunity to move a combination of Goldobin, Baertschi, Granlund, Leipsic, or Boucher to fill a major hole in our defence, Benning should go for it. Edmonton is the most likely team to engage in such a trade.

          • truthseeker

            you’re misreading the value of D men. And Chiarelli already knows how much D is worth. That’s why he made the Hall trade. Why would he trade guys he knows are as good or better than Larssen, for a couple of wingers who’s combined points are not even half as good Hall?

            Come on man. He may need some wing depth, but he’s not that stupid.

        • crofton

          Even if they did that trade, which neither team would, the Oilers would never be able to afford McJesus, Draisaitl and Boeser. You obviously haven’t been paying attention.

        • Green Bastard

          I’m sure Brock would have the common sense to not report if his worst nightmare became a reality. And with your idol Chia’s continued mis-management, he’ll continue spending on players like 30 year old never was goalies. After next season when McDavid demands a trade, the oil will have money to squander to insure the oil remain a lotto team.

          • LAKID

            Boeser could be a flash in the pan only if he stays in Vancouver. Benning could add 3 years to his life if he trades Brock at the draft. Linden and Benning are just as much of a joke as Chia and the flaming flamingos( Treliving and Burke).

        • Mattias

          Juolevi and Nurse are about the same thing. (high draft, slow development, Left D)
          In 2 years, OJ will likely be the better of the two.
          Doesn’t benefit either team.

          I’d keep Boesner and Boeser at 6 mil 😉

        • Cageyvet

          Only an Oilers fan who is taught market value by the league’s worst GM Chiarelli could think Nurse is worth Boeser…..just because he gave up Hall for Larsen doesn’t mean the rest of the league will be that stupid.

  • Killer Marmot

    In the modern game, a coach can always use a defensively sound forward, even if he often patrols the press box. An offensively talented player with major defensive liabilities, however, risks spending his career in the minors. The attitude seems to be “You don’t have to win us the game, but don’t lose it for us.”

  • MM

    Seems to me that giving the kids a chance bears fruit. Look at Vegas. All those guys were essentially rejected by their respective teams. I realize there’s some merit to earning their time, and also some merit to being defensively responsible, but i equally think that giving legitimate opportunity reveals diamonds in the rough. I think the league is going to get younger and younger as more GMs figure this out.

    • Druken Lout

      100% this, it seems to be indicative in modern sports that the other kids toys are shinier and better than your own even though yours can still do the job.

    • DJ_44

      Vegas? I think Vegas is an example of the exact opposite of what you profess. They are not a young team by any stretch of the imagination, with an average age of 27.4, and only Tuck and Theodore are 21, the rest are older than 23, with most between 26 and 30.

      The Vegas team is also the anti-Goldobin. They all play 200ft, work incredibly hard, and hit. The majority of players on Vegas were players that their teams loathed to lose, because they knew how valuable that type of player is to a team.

  • Mattias

    The possibilities available to the Canucks doesn’t bode well for Baertschi or Goldobin, at least long-term.
    Odds are in favour of the Canucks landing a L shot over a D at this years draft (Zadina RW, Svechnikov RW, Tkachuk LW)
    Hard to imagine Dahlen won’t be top -6 within 3 years.
    Canucks can easily afford to go after FAs (Van Riemsdyk, Kane, Maroon)

    Also of note, Jannik Hansen is going to have a hard time finding a home, and probably available at less than 2mil.
    Given Green’s 4th line shutdown deployment, with Dorsett – Hansen/Sutter/Granlund would make for a great buffer for a weak D, young offence, and Demko. Not to mention a very stingy PK.
    Just a thought.

    • Killer Marmot

      Odds are in favour of the Canucks landing a L shot over a D at this years draft (Zadina RW, Svechnikov RW, Tkachuk LW)

      There’s a 75% chance of the Canuck picking between 6th and 8th, which means they will likely be getting a defenseman.

    • Bobaner

      I’ve wondered about bringing back hansen a few times myself although it’s occured to me that it might have more to do with nostalgia than being a good signing. While I think Jannik would be excellent as a culture/leadership guy the fourth line is a great proving ground for young players and he’d be taking one of those spots.

      • Mattias

        It would be a shame to lose a spot for a young player, but defensive awareness takes some seasoning.
        I can’t see Leipsic, Goldobin, or Baertschi serving as proper PK/defensive zone start/shutdown players.

    • I’d bring back Hansen on a short-term deal but only with the understanding that he’d be a 13th forward to the younger players. I’d play Hansen when the injuries hit or when the younger guys start to fade and need some time out. We finished the season without 4 of our Top 9 wingers, we could have used a guy like Hansen.

  • Holmes

    Watched him live in game one of the playoffs. For the majority of the time he was on the ice, his skill did not make up for his softness. And then he made two sweet plays on two different power plays. Both of those plays contributed directly to goals. Tough player to make a decision on. If I am the Canucks, I’d see what he does this summer in terms of getting physically and mentally ready for next season. If he comes to camp ready to blow the doors off, great. Probably have a full time NHLer. But if he mails it in this summer, show him the door after training camp.

    • crofton

      There have been a lot of players like that. They seem like they are doing nothing, then you look up and they have 3 or 4 points. I’m a fan of utilizing players’ abilities…if you have a point getter that doesn’t do so well defensively, you put him on a line with someone that can help that way.

  • myshkin

    goldy’s going to be just fine. he seemed to have a real nose for the net in the last few weekse of the season. he probably always had a nose for the net but all the coaching about being responsible defensively made him hesitant to drive to the net.

    • Locust

      Only problem – those games were mostly “no hitters” and “85% efforts” by both teams at the end of their year.
      Could Goldy play and succeed in a first round playoff situation when the ref’s pocket their whistles? – – 50/50 at best.
      He needs to come back tougher, stronger (on the puck) and more motivated. If not he’ll be traded or waived by Christmas.

    • Holly Wood

      Don’t fall in love with some lofty results while playing games after your team has been eliminated and the opposition is coasting. Add into the equation the adrenaline boost the Sedin retirement gave the players. I think Goldy is skilled but would vanish in the meaningful games.

  • Rodeobill

    I guess the numbers say otherwise, but most the games towards the end, and from reading Cory’s comets recaps, he seems to be making improvements defensively from the eye test to me. Mind you, I am not sure if this is maybe more of a “hey, that was a good defensive backcheck” that you notice because it is something out of the ordinary for him as opposed to being something common for most other players. I got a hunch he is going to sort it out. He will never be a power forward bruiser, but I think he will get there positionally and learn when to take calculated risks more.

    • crofton

      There are quite a few smallish if not downright small, that are ripping it up. he will never have to play a physical game to succeed, but throwing a few hits can’t hurt

  • canuckfan

    When Goldobin was first brought up he was put on a line with Brock and Bo they looked good together and Goldy made some pretty sweet passes. Then Bo was injured and the chemistry that was just starting was put off for awhile. He was then bounced between linemates as Green was trying to stabilize the team as when Bo was out so were a number of other good players. Then Sedins stepped up to the plate and started picking up their game. Bo was back then not long after Brock was hurt. Will be fun to see if the three of them gel and with the increased ice time has Goldy thriving and the 3 of them take off. He has also looked good with Jake.
    Canucks need too have their topline all get points in the 70-80 point mark and scoring spread across the rest of the lines.
    I thought Goldobin looked like crap for a stretch and didn’t look like he was even trying but still have hope for him. But agree that if he comes to camp the way he did this year he will never get another chance as would have burned the same bridge twice and show what his true character is. I hope he trains his as off and rips up the league next year.

  • Fred-65

    Goldobin is a tough read for sure, but he does have that element you can’t teach …… hockey IQ. As pointed out in the article he needs to play with a quality line mates to get the best out of him. I understand that Green is putting him often in a defense first line to show him the way to play. But at some point you have to say he’s absorbed every thing he is going to lets take off the leash and play to his strength. IMO he’s either going to be on the two lines or he’s gone. Green seems like he get on tracks some times and does understand you can over cook a player. Larionov, his agent tells us he wants to play in the NHL, he has determination and character. I’d certainly want him on my team lets hope Green does too

  • Super Pest

    Thank you for the excellent summary. NOT negative, objective. Perhaps Green broke Hutton, but he just may have prepared Goldy and Jake for their next level.