Nikolay Goldobin’s first full season with the Canucks was up and down, both literally and figuratively. He bounced up and down between the NHL and AHL, playing 38 games with the Canucks and 30 games with the Comets. And, when he was in the NHL, his performance was definitely inconsistent.
Goldobin ended the season strong, however, tallying 7 points in 11 games while playing on the top line with Bo Horvat.
By the end of the season, though, Goldobin only had 8 goals and 14 points in his 38 NHL games. That’s not inspiring production from someone who only really fits on the team in an offensive role. With the Canucks free agent signings and the addition of Brendan Leipsic at the trade deadline, it’s hard to figure out exactly where he fits into their plans.
When you look at who the Canucks already have signed for next season, it’s clear that something has to give. A player that played significant time with the Canucks last season will need to get put on waivers, get traded, or injured. Since only two of those three can (or rather should) be done intentionally, we should expect someone to get traded this summer or waived after training camp.
That player could be Goldobin. The Canucks have several young prospects on the wing vying for a spot in the lineup and added two more veteran left wingers in Antoine Roussel and Tim Schaller. Goldobin, who is waiver eligible this coming season, might end up the odd man out.
The question is, should he be?
Goldobin didn’t have a great season, but there’s still a great deal of potential in his game. He’s tremendously skilled with the puck and has fantastic vision, so there’s still reason to believe that he could have a breakout season in him. Some of what Travis Green preached about play away from the puck seemed to get through to him as well.
How likely is that breakout season? I took a look at forwards who had similar seasons to Goldobin at the age of 22 using Hockey Reference, at least by points. Then I looked at their following season to see how they performed.
That produced 30 matches, but included players from around the origin of the forward pass, so I decided to limit it to the post-2000’s. That produced a small group of 11 forwards. It’s the kind of binning that would probably get me an F in a statistics class, but it still provides an interesting list of comparable players to Goldobin.
There are a few players that jump off that list: Clarke MacArthur, Adam Henrique, and Vladislav Namestnikov became legitimate top-six forwards. Henrique, admittedly, doesn’t quite fit Goldobin’s profile. Henrique had 51 points in his rookie season at the age of 21.
But there are other, less impressive, players on the list. Johan Larsson is at least an NHLer, but Drayson Bowman spent all of last season in the ECHL, while Ryan Potulny had one good season with the Edmonton Oilers before bouncing out of the NHL and heading to Europe over the last few seasons.
On average, the 11 players on the list averaged 0.43 points per game in their following season. That’s 35 points over the course of an 82-game season, which would have been sixth on the Canucks last season.
That seems like a fair expectation for Goldobin, but it’s the comparables like MacArthur and Namestnikov that are particularly intriguing. Let’s look specifically at Namestnikov:
The two Russian forwards each had identical points per game in both the AHL and NHL at the age of 22. Their points per game were pretty similar in their 21-year-old seasons as well, while Goldobin was clearly superior at 20.
At 23, Namestnikov had 35 points in 80 games. This past season, he flourished on a line with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, putting up 20 goals and 44 points in 62 games before he was a significant part of their trade for Ryan McDonagh.
Could Goldobin have a similar trajectory to his career? It’s something the Canucks need to consider carefully this summer.