Can Goldobin Replace Burns on Thornton Line?

Full disclosure I have yet to watch Nikolay Goldobin play a single game. And before you start calling me crazy, let me just say no, I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested.

Fitting In

The soon to be 19-year-old Goldobin was the 27th overall draft choice this past June. Chances are the Russian winger will return to the OHL in the coming days. However, if Goldobin does make the Sharks out of training camp, where does he best fit in? The answer to that question may surprise you. It’s the spot Brent Burns vacated with his move to defense, right wing next to Jumbo Joe Thornton.

Nikolay Goldobin (Terry Wilson /OHL Images)
Nikolay Goldobin (Terry Wilson /OHL Images)

While this may sound like a stretch, when it comes to offensively touted rookies, it makes little sense to play them on the fourth line for any significant length of time. Yes, even Tomas Hertl saw some time playing with fourth liners like Andrew Desjardins but for the most part Hertl fit in on Thornton’s left side.

Chances are if Goldobin makes the cut, he will start in the bottom six for a few games. Sharks head coach Todd McLellan prefers this method of “easing” players into the league or back from an injury. But are bottom six minutes really easier? You could argue that’s not the case.

Ice Time Reality

A strong team’s third line doesn’t see that much less ice than the top two lines at even strength. Often the third group plays just a minute or two fewer. If Goldobin is slotted in on the third line, he won’t see that much less ice time.

Therefore, the line he plays on at even strength doesn’t really matter in terms of shifts. If we are talking about difficulty level or energy expenditure, hard to argue the Sharks third line duties a year ago weren’t harder than the first line. A Sharks’ third line while without Joe Pavelski spent a lot of time defending their own zone. Goldobin was drafted to score goals, so why put a rookie in a position where he constantly has to defend?

Yes, Thornton often played against elite competition last year. However, the Logan Couture line was frequently used as a shut down line as well. Therefore it is possible to shelter Thornton’s line a bit more towards offensive minutes. Plus, even while facing elite competition, Thornton (and whomever his linemates were) dominated puck possession all year long. When Jumbo is out there, the Sharks have the puck far more frequently than they don’t.

Making History

Wherever Goldobin plays, he should be on the ice, not sitting on the bench as part of a fourth line. Plus with Thornton, 6’4, 230, and Hertl, 6’2, 210, (perhaps even bigger, he’s still a growing “boy”), it’s not like the smaller Goldobin, 5’10, 185 pounds, won’t have actual (read: not John Scott) protection around him. Plus regardless of how Goldobin plays, Hertl and Thornton can kick butt with anyone. If Thornton and Burns can make T. J. Galiardi look like a passable top-6 player, Goldobin should be fine next to Thornton and Hertl even if he struggles at the start.

Nikolay Goldobin
Nikolay Goldobin (Terry Wilson /OHL Images)

Making the team is a monumental task for Goldobin though, none of the most well known 27th overall picks of the last 30 years, Joe Nieuwendyk, Scott Gomez, Scott Mellanby, Tie Domi, John Carlson, Steve Staios, nor Cory Sarich made the NHL right out of their draft year. (According to Sharks stats guru Darin Stephens,  Sergio Momesso was drafted 27th overall in 1983 and played in one game during the 1983-84 season.)

That said, the NHL is trending towards younger, more highly skilled players and away from the goons who simply fight and hope not to get scored on. Goldobin, like Burns, features a dynamic offensive skill set. The Sharks will probably hold off and wait when it comes to Goldobin. Sending him back to the OHL to start the season is probably the right call. However, if they are keen on making a deep playoff run this season, they must find a way to keep Pavelski at that third line center spot. Goldobin making the historic jump to the NHL could be the answer to keeping Pavelski in the middle where he belongs.

13 thoughts on “Can Goldobin Replace Burns on Thornton Line?”

  1. I saw goldobin play Saturday and was very impressed.

    A couple of things to consider. He cannot go to Worcester due to his age (in reply to an earlier comment), and Sarnia has now filled its 2 import slots so him (and Mueller) will not likely be playing for their former clubs this season.

    The biggest concern I’ve seen about goldobin is his 2 way play, but if he were put up on Jumbo’s line, TMac could give them more sheltered minutes like he used to give jumbo before he developed his 2-way game.

    I hope that the team somehow does something to get rid of Brown, Burish, and Scott but unfortunately they’re more likely to get rid of TK than any of those players.

    I strongly disagree with the above commenter who in a great showing of his lack of knowledge about the game suggested that the best thing Thornton could do for the team is to accept a trade. It’s unlikely that the return would come close to replacing him.

    • Appreciate the comment Jon! Yeah those three players bring zero, absolutely zero value. Hamilton, McGinn, Hayes, etc are all better players, not to mention the rookies like Goldobin, Tierney and Goodrow. And Thornton trade, you’re exactly right.

      Not sure about the junior league stuff, I’m sure the sting would love to have their best player back regardless of other kids.

      • Hi Andrew–it’s actually really easy. “Who” is the subject of the verb (the one doing the action), and “whom” is the object. The same rule applies to “whoever” and “whomever.” This rules applies within the given grammatical structure in which the verb is found.

        1st Example: “Whoever meets me receives kind treatment. The “whoever” is the one doing the “meeting.”

        2nd Example: “I am generally kind to whomever I meet.”

        However, it can get confusing. For instance, which do you use when you say, “I am kind to who(m)ever gives me free food?” Here’s where you have to apply the rule within the given grammatical structure. In this case, that’s considered a “dependent clause,” I believe.

        3rd Example: “I am generally kind to whoever crosses my path.” The potential for confusion here is that it would seem like the “whoever” is the object of the verb, “to be kind to.” But, when you take in the context of the grammatical structure (i.e., within the dependent clause), the “whoever” is the subject of the verb, “to cross.”

        4th Example: “I am generally kind to whomever I like.” In this dependent clause, “whomever” is the object of the verb, “to like.”

        Hope this helps and doesn’t just confuse the heck out of you! The simple way to view it, again, is that “who” is always the subject of its own verb, and “whom” is always the object.

        Nice article, too, by the way! LOL! I was actually just thinking Goldobin should be up with the first line, so I looked him up to see if I could find any news on whether or not he’s going to be given a look in a few regular season games. I hope so! I agree that with enough depth in place, Pavelski as a third line center is a wonderful, wonderful thing for our Sharkies!

  2. I saw Goldobin play Friday note. I was suitably impressed. He’s very fast and does have a quick shot. I think he could stick with the big club but also he could benefit from some seasoning in Worchester. With these young players on the Sharks, they will be much faster which could only be a good sign. Thornton will need to change his game to maximize the skills of these young guys. His slow-down puck holding style won’t help the team anymore. I hope he can put aside his ego and do what is best for the team. However, IMO accepting a trade would have been what was best for the team.

    • Appreciate comment Jeff, but he is their best player, and trading him doesn’t help this team. Also Marleau can fly and he has had great seasons on Thornton’s wing. Just cuz Thornton slows it down doesn’t mean he can’t feed guys flying up the ice with perfect passes.

  3. After seeing this kid live 3 times and he is impressive. Reminds me of Hertl in that he is an international player that has played on NHL sized rinks as a young man. The only big difference is Hertl was playing with Men in the Czech Extraliga league for a year before he came over, where Goldobin has been playing with boys in the Jr leagues. Excited to have him as a possibility. I think Goodrow could play the role you envision here as well. He seems to put himself in great position for rebounds and passes (two goals off of Goldobins stick)

    • I have heard mostly good things so far in preseason, unfortunately wont get to see him til tuesday as other job commitments have prevented me from going to games. Ive heard he was a bit iffy in game 2 but 1 and 3 was great. Obviously he shouldnt be relied upon to carry his own line or for top power play unit scoring, and wont need to with veteran stars on this team, but in a sheltered offensive role, sounds like he could make it out of camp, and if not definitely come playoffs

  4. I think you’re misinterpreting the data.#9 isn’t a goal scorer or shooter. You’d be hard pressed to find anybody other than Ovechkin that has has as many assists per minutes of possession. I’ve seen Goldobin play the last 2 exibition games and he is very impressive, very fast, very strong shot always in the right spot. I think it would be cool to try him and Hertl on #9s wings and move Pavelski back to the 3rd line center. Reminds me of Cheechoo.

  5. While it’s correct that Thornton’s line dominated puck possession specifically Thornton that wasn’t a positive for the Sharks. One of Thornton’s biggest issues is he overplays the puck. He has never adapted to the faster, harder hitting game. He still plays his slow down style that’s not really effective in the current NHL. If extra skater was still up you would be able to use the incredible information they had accumulated. While Thornton had the puck the most of any Shark his production with the puck was lower than Tyler Kennedy’s. Time with puck divided by production showed that Thornton playing as much as he did was detrimental to the Sharks. Note the PP and it’s not hard to understand that. Marleau was the most effective Shark in almost every situation. Pavelski was second and he and Marleau flip flopped first and second in the situations that Marleau was not first in.
    We have seen over the last 3 or 4 seasons McLellan breaking up lines that are effective to move a player to Thornton’s wing to get him going again. It hasn’t been what’s best for the Sharks. It’s been what’s best for Thornton. Burns worked on his line because he had the wheels to get to some of Thornton’s increasing no look passes to no one. Anyone who plays on Joe’s wing not only has to be able to handle his passing but be an incredible two way player to make up for Thornton’s one way play. . Is Goldobin as mature and confident as Hertl? Hertl played like a man from game 1 on. He never hesitated or second guessed himself. The game is too fast for that.
    We are going to see a very different situation if Thornton doesn’t produce. We won’t see players moved to get him going, we will see him moved to give others a chance to get the job done.
    When fans complain that DW didn’t do anything this summer, that is incorrect. We will see the difference on the ice. We could still see a trade.

    • one way player? Never heard anyone who consistently watches sharks in recent years call jumbo one way player. He works his tail off at both ends and is strong in both ends. Yes, your math makes perfectly logical sense that marleau scored at a higher percentage of possession, but that insinuates that possession and not scoring isn’t still valuable, if you have the puck, the other team can’t score. Thornton is an elite producer, he’s not what he used to be offensively because he’s improved his two way game as he ages and hasn’t quite been as sharp in ozone. Power play is not jumbos fault, it has been a top unit every year until last season when it was boyle who was struggling quarterbacking the unit.

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