With training camps right around the corner, NHL teams will soon be making initial preparations for the season. How many young guys will earn roster spots? Depending on the team, perhaps a veteran player is in camp on a pro-tryout contact (former Shark Devin Setoguchi is in Toronto on a PTO). Often times these veteran players get cut, but we have seen other times where a guy like Manny Malhotra earns a contract (2009-10 with the Sharks) and goes on to have a terrific season as a third line center. Training camp can be rather ho-hum but there can also be a surprise or two to start the season.
The veteran-laden Sharks don’t have many lineup openings so chances are there won’t be too many surprises. That means 2014 first-round pick Nikolay Goldobin will have his work cut out for him to make the opening night roster. The 20-year old Russian winger flashed his high-level puck skills in last year’s preseason before playing his 2014-15 season in Finland with HIFK Helsinki. While most prospect experts agree it was a good year of development for Goldobin, it wasn’t as if he dominated in Europe. Goldobin’s defensive game is the primary concern in terms of whether or not he will be NHL ready. Reports often indicated that Helsinki saw a lot of goals scored with Goldobin on the ice, but they were scored at both ends of the ice.
There also remains the question of whether or not he can physically hold up at his age. During last year’s training camp it was clearly evident that he was simply too thin to handle the physical grind at the top level. Goldobin did look significantly bigger this past July at San Jose’s development camp but has he put on enough muscle to bang with guys who are six-foot-two, 215 pounds? Goldobin can make guys miss in open ice with his amazing stick skills but he will need to be able to hold his own in corner puck battles. It remains to be seen if he can do that at the NHL level.
Goldobin Should Begin Season With Barracuda
At some point in the next year or so Goldobin will get his chance to prove himself but the Sharks have no reason to rush him into the league. Unlike Tomas Hertl who was physically more mature and ready for the NHL, Goldobin is a much bigger question mark. Plus with the Sharks picking up versatile winger Joel Ward this offseason, they don’t have an immediate need for a top-nine forward. It would make little sense to waste Goldobin’s talents on a fourth line role. San Jose’s top-six is rather set, and a probable third line of Matt Nieto, Chris Tierney and Tommy Wingels showed great chemistry down the stretch last season. For the meantime there isn’t an obvious spot to put Goldobin where he would be able to play enough to develop his game with other high end talent.
Given the makings of the roster, Goldobin starting with the AHL Barracuda is clearly the way to go. With less pressure and in a lesser league, the youngster can play top line minutes and play on the top power play unit. He can get his legs under him at the American league level and prove whether or not he can be a reliable forward at both ends. Goldobin’s defensive game still needs to improve. His junior squad the Sarnia Sting were not a very good team so it is hard to come down on him for defensive numbers at that level but he certainly can’t be praised for it either. His young track record suggests he has more dues to pay in the minor leagues. With his ability to handle the puck, he should be able to be a big time positive player and lead the Barracuda in scoring. Perhaps the Sharks suffer an injury in their top-nine forwards a couple months into the season and then Goldobin can get his chance. For now though, time in the AHL will serve him best. So to answer the titular question, no, he will not make the roster, not yet, not to start the season.
Andrew has been credentialed to cover the Sharks since 2010 and the 49ers since 2012. He graduated with his BA in Broadcast Electronic Communication Arts in 2013 from San Francisco State University.