PHILADELPHIA –- Some guidance and advice from a former Sharks center played a big role in San Jose making 18-year-old scoring winger Nikolay Goldobin the team’s first round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft on Friday night at Wells Fargo Center.
Igor Larionov, who represents Goldobin along with agent Ian Pulver, helped convince his client two years ago that emigrating from Moscow to the Ontario Hockey League was a good career move.
Getting selected 27th overall in the first round after two offensively productive seasons in North America seems to validate that decision, but moving across the world also speaks volumes about the player himself to Sharks general manager Doug Wilson.
“I think his actions coming over here and playing here, the way he plays, and having a mentor like a guy like Igor and another guy like Ian, who I have great respect for, tells you a lot about the kid, too. He’s getting some good guidance.”
“He made the commitment, he wanted to play on rinks this size. He wants to be a hockey player and play in this league.”
As with most young draft picks, Goldobin is likely at least a year or two away from making the jump to the NHL level, although he says he’d like to “be the best” player at next month’s rookie camp and “then, try to make the team.” He identified Pavel Datsyuk and Patrick Kane as NHL players he enjoys watching.
His offensive skills don’t seem to be in doubt after he finished sixth in the OHL in scoring this past season with 94 points in 67 games. His -30 rating, though, suggests he has some work to do defensively.
He admitted as much in his first official media scrum shortly after pulling on a Sharks sweater for the first time. Goldobin said he considers himself a "playmaker," but needs to work on the “defensive zone. Be more [responsible].”
Sharks scouting director Tim Burke gave his assessment of Goldobin, who has skated as a left wing in his two seasons in Sarnia.
“His strengths are his offensive ability,” said Burke, who announced the pick at the podium. “He’s got to get a little bit stronger. He’s got to play against men, and learn to play a little faster with men, like a lot of guys.”
Burke said scouts Rob Grillo and Bryan Marchment saw Goldobin the most. Other Sharks personnel conducted Skype interviews with the prospect.
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“It kept coming back to this guy. He has a lot of offensive ability, scoring, playmaking. We kept coming back to him,” Burke said.
Wilson, who didn't see Goldobin in person yet watched plenty of tape, pinpointed Goldobin’s hockey sense as a particularly positive attribute.
“He’s one of the smartest players in the draft,” Wilson said. “When a player goes from that level to this level, it’s what’s between your ears that almost always makes a big difference.”
Goldobin admitted he was nervous headed into Friday’s activities. He was ranked 24th overall in North America by NHL Central Scouting, but comes off as a particularly confident young man.
Perhaps that’s due to his relationship with Larionov.
“He said, ‘don’t worry, you’re going to be in the first round,’” relayed Goldobin.
He was right.