Nikolay Goldobin has been playing overseas this year, but his season has come to a close — so he’s hopping on a plane back to North America, where he’ll join the Worcester Sharks in the AHL.
Goldobin, who was selected in the first round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Sharks, has plenty of North American hockey experience. The native of Moscow played with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting for two full seasons (recording sixty-eight goals in 135 regular season games) before being lent to HIFK-Helinski, one of the Finnish teams in the SM-liiga, in a move that made perfect sense (something the San Jose Sharks aren’t always known for when it comes to young prospects). Rather than attempt to further his development in the Canadian major juniors, the team sent him overseas — and while the style of play in Finland isn’t exactly identical to that of North American teams, the shift gave Goldobin an opportunity to play against older opponents without having to immediately throw him out on NHL ice. While many players stall out from too much time in the juniors (or struggle to develop correctly when put in the NHL too early), a year in Finland was the perfect stepping stone for an almost-there prospect too young for AHL play.
His season with HIFK has ended, though, so the young forward is on his way to finish out his spring in Worcester.
The year is so close to over — and the Sharks don’t have much of a shot at a playoff berth — so fans shouldn’t expect to see Goldobin on the ice in California until this summer or next fall. Likely, he’ll get top minutes in the AHL, where the team’s front office can keep a close eye on how he interacts with other prospects and judge what he still needs to work on before next year.
Skating on the top line in Helinski, though, Goldobin really began to show signs of being a strong all-around player. He developed more confidence when attacking in his own end, and his defensive play has started to show signs of improvement — although the young skater may not be ready for the NHL quite yet, Goldobin could be a top six skater within two or three seasons.
He’ll turn twenty at the start of the regular season, so the Sharks aren’t likely to send Goldobin back to Finland again — when he comes to report to Worcester, it should be a permanent move. For Sharks fans, though, he may be the one bright spot in a relatively grim season.