The San Jose Sharks are starting to see the benefits of prospects ready to join the team from the San Jose Barracuda. Among players called up from the Barracuda, Kevin Labanc has made the biggest impact this season for the Sharks. Timo Meier, the Sharks’ top prospect, is now in the NHL and is adjusting to the quicker tempo.
But perhaps another candidate who had a taste of NHL action last season is still developing with the Barracuda. Nikolay Goldobin was perhaps San Jose’s top prospect before Meier got drafted in 2015. However, the winger is still learning to play consistently down in the AHL, causing a delay in his promotion. Until Goldobin figures out playing an all-around game, he will get overlooked.
A Similar Game Plan with Different Results
After the success of Tomas Hertl in Europe, Sharks’ management felt Goldobin would benefit playing with older players. Drafted 27th overall in 2014, Goldobin was sent to play for HIFK Helsinki for the 2014-15 season. Hope was the Moscow native would develop and arrive in San Jose the following season as the track Hertl went through. In 38 games, Goldobin registered 21 points with an additional six points in the playoffs.
Upon elimination from the playoffs, Goldobin arrived in North America and was assigned to the Worcester Sharks. With Worcester’s season winding down, Goldobin appeared in nine games but made the most the short stint with five points. He appeared in Worcester’s four playoff games but could not find the scoresheet.
Former Sharks forward Igor Larionov believed Goldobin was ready for the NHL, serving as his agent when he signed his entry-level contract with San Jose. The winger tends to find the back of the net, scoring 68 goals in two seasons with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting. His goal scoring attracted San Jose in selecting Goldobin in the first round of the 2014 draft.
Despite his agent leaning towards the NHL, coaches saw differently. Goldobin entered Sharks’ training camp with new coach Peter DeBoer. All players came on a clean slate with roster spots open for the taking. For Goldobin, signs were evident the winger was not ready for NHL action. While his offense was impressive, he needed work on his defense as he struggled to play on both ends of the ice.
Development with Barracuda the Right Decision
Goldobin may have been disappointed not to make the initial roster, but seasoning in the AHL should serve as a blessing for the sake of continuing development. Signs were clear Mirco Mueller was not ready to play full time in the NHL and has seen his development decline. Fear was Goldobin might experience the same fate. With the Barracuda, Goldobin could play significant minutes and work on his all-around game.
A full season with the Barracuda served Goldobin well, as he registered 44 points and tied for first on the team in goals with 21. He may not have followed the exact footsteps of Hertl, but is continuing to develop the right way. Consistency will be critical for Goldobin when he makes the leap to the NHL full time. At times, the winger is non-existent during play, drawing criticism from coaches.
Not Making a Good First Impression
Ultimately, Goldobin made his anticipated debut getting called up in October last season by the Sharks. He appeared in nine games, where he scored his first NHL goal against the New York Islanders and recorded an assist in another match. However, the Sharks’ coaching staff felt Goldobin was not ready to make an impact in the NHL. He returned to the Barracuda to finish the season.
However, his brief stint came with an adverse reaction. Reports surfaced Goldobin was not well-received by his teammates in the locker room during the Islanders game. Whatever the reason was, this should serve as a valuable lesson in the importance of being a team player and not an individualist.
The results affected how Goldobin played with the Barracuda. The inconsistent play led to Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer calling Goldobin out after a loss. He showed no effort and made errant passes, which resulted in turnovers, costing the team. Instead of hanging his head in humiliation, Goldobin took the message to heart and finished the season on a high.
Waiting in the Wings
Currently, Goldobin has 17 points this season with the Barracuda. Now with Meier and Labanc up with the Sharks, the young winger should have more scoring opportunities to help the Barracuda. I’m sure he would prefer to be with the Sharks but playing minutes with the Barracuda is currently the best option.
He is a first or second line player, but the Sharks have quality talent currently on the top lines. Time on the third or fourth line will only hinder his development. At the age of 21, Goldobin has plenty of time to develop before potentially hitting his prime when he arrives full time for the Sharks.
While he waits for another opportunity, Goldobin’s focus is to work hard and make impact plays both offensively and defensively. He certainly has a future to become one of the next group of core players for San Jose. Time will tell just how great Goldobin can be.