He is the youngest player in the WCHA and the second youngest playing D-I hockey this season, but watching the University of Wisconsin freshman defenseman Cody Goloubef play you wouldn’t know it. The Oakville, ON native turned 18 on Nov. 30.
Cody Goloubef came to Wisconsin from the Oakville Blades of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League (OPJHL), where he recorded 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 19 games in an injury-shortened 2006-07 season. Goloubef was also a member of Team Ontario in the U-17 World Hockey Challenge in 2006. He was one of only three non-OHL players to be named to the Team Ontario roster.
In 2005-06, Goloubef played with the Milton Ice Hawks (OPJHL) where he was named the team’s rookie of the year after posting 42 points (10 goals, 32 assists) in 49 games. It was during this season that college hockey recruiters really began to take notice. Goloubef became one of the most highly sought-after players coming out of the OPJHL with a number of schools courting him. In addition, the Sarnia Sting (OHL), who drafted the young defenseman in 2005, were also in the mix.
Though he had considered going the Canadian Major Junior route, Goloubef felt that going the NCAA route was the right choice for his development and had what he was looking for.
“Growing up, I always wanted to go the NCAA route,” he said. “When I got drafted to Sarnia I thought about it for a little bit but it’s the real deal down here. There’s nothing else like it out there and this is the right place for me. I never really looked towards the CHL because I knew what I was going to get when I got here.”
The University of Wisconsin became Goloubef’s school of choice over Boston University and Ohio State partly because of the coaching staff, specifically assistant coach Mark Osiecki.
“For me, it really came down to the coaching staff, all of the facilities and the gut feeling that I got when I was down at the university,” he said. “I just felt the most comfortable with Coach Os (Osiecki). I knew that I had to learn to play in my own zone and I felt that he was the best guy to help me out there. So I decided that in order to benefit myself, I was going to come to Wisconsin. I chose the school that I felt looks the best in my eyes and where I felt that I could develop the best as well. So it was just the kind of deal that I couldn’t turn down.”
As head coach Mike Eaves explained, persistently selling what Wisconsin had to offer in terms of both a rich hockey tradition and academic excellence were paramount in trying to land the coveted young rearguard.
“Well, I think we had to be diligent,” Eaves said. “Knowing the family that education was important to them, we had to be diligent in terms of our approach and stay on top of the ball because of the other schools that were interested in Cody. I think we certainly thought that we did everything diligently enough that we presented all the facts can in terms of who we are and what we’re trying to do both academically and in a hockey sense. Ultimately it came down to how Cody felt when he came down here.”
Goloubef is an intelligent defenseman blessed with superb offensive skills and displays tremendous poise with the puck. He possesses a big shot and can get it to the net. He has excellent on-ice vision, follows plays very well and has little trouble finding and getting passes to his teammates. In addition, he can make really nice outlet passes. While his decisions with the puck are very good, he’ll need to be able to make them quicker to have success both at the collegiate level and beyond.
As Eaves explained, decision-making is one of several specific areas that he and his coaching staff have continually worked with Goloubef to improve.
“In the first part of the season, Cody was kind of sitting back on his heels and not wanting to run out and make mistakes,” he said. “His gap is getting better and his assertiveness in terms of taking away time and space is getting way better. His stick positioning and his body positioning, by working with Coach Os has just grown immensely. So these are the areas that we’ve seen Cody improving – his gap, his understanding the importance of his stick positioning and actually working on his pivots. Os works on these young people’s pivots every week. It’s a fundamental thing that they need to do. I think the area that we want him to improve is making his decisions faster with the puck. It’s an area that we’re still taking about. Even when he has time and space, he has to go with that puck.”
Goloubef is a wonderful skater, combining good speed with powerful yet fluid strides. His transitioning is good, although it is another area that should improve with development. His great skating ability coupled with his offensive instincts and vision allows him to frequently jump up into the play and create more scoring opportunities for his team.
At 6’1, 185 lbs. Goloubef possesses good size and as his body matures the lack of strength issue should be addressed as well. While he is not a particularly physical player, Goloubef won’t shy away from playing the body when necessary. He thinks and understands the game remarkably well for such a young player. His ability to adjust and adapt to virtually any type of situation is also quite good.
Though he has all of the exuberance that comes with youth, Goloubef also handles himself in a professional manner. He works and competes hard and his desire to learn is matched only by his unyielding pursuit of being the best that he can be.
Goloubef plays a relatively simple yet effective defensive game. His willingness to be a part of the offensive rush rarely comes at the expense of his defensive responsibilities. It is perhaps the area where Goloubef has made the greatest strides thus far in his young college career. Assistant coach Mark Osiecki, who regularly works with the Badgers defensemen, has been instrumental in not only helping Goloubef play better and smarter in the defensive zone, but also in boosting his confidence in that area as well.
“I came in looking to learn how to play in my own zone a lot better. That’s something that Coach Os has really taught me how to do. That would’ve been the one thing that I would’ve said at the beginning of the year, but he seems to have made me a lot better in my own zone and I can now confidently play knowing what to do, where everybody is and how to shut everything down.”
So how does Goloubef describe himself as a player and what does he consider are his strengths and weaknesses?
“I consider myself as a guy who is really good in his own zone and on the penalty kill,” he said. “I can play in all situations. I chip in offensively as well. I’m a good skater who always makes the first pass and who’ll jump in frequently. You don’t really notice me in my defensive zone because I get to the puck quick and I just make that quick, simple pass out. I’m not that flashy, so you might not notice me that much. Everyone does it, but I do it on a consistent basis. So if you watch me, you’ll always see me making that pass, always getting there and getting it out of the zone.
“I’d say that my skating and my vision are my greatest strengths. My weakness is that I just need to get stronger. That’s what I came to Wisconsin for. We’re always working out three days a week and we’re skating every day. I’ve got a really strong lower body, but it’s my upper body that’s a little smaller that I need to work on. Right now, I feel that I have pretty strong legs. I’m just working on getting my shoulders a little more broad so that I could be a little more balanced. Jim Snider (Wisconsin’s strength and conditioning coach) has helped me work on that and I get stronger in all aspects.”
Goloubef lists Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle as one of his favorite players and the NHLer that he patterns his game after.
“I like to mimic my game after his because he’s really smart, poised and calm with the puck,” he said. “I think I play a lot like him because I stay calm too. I’m not that physical, real good in my own zone and am able to play in all areas and in all different situations just like he can. So he’s one guy that I follow real closely. I think my game is more like his.”
“I think Cody could be a really well rounded defenseman in terms of being able to be offensive and be very responsible away from the puck,” said Eaves. “He has the natural skill to make plays with the puck and he’s got the smarts. I think he’s going to be a good-sized, rangy defenseman that can be assertive in closing down people and being really hard to play against.”
At the University of Wisconsin
Goloubef is a part of the Badgers’ talent-laden defensive corps that features three current NHL draft prospects. The style that has been established at Wisconsin, specifically that of the defensemen actively involved in the offense, has played perfectly into one of Goloubef’s strengths and the result has benefited player and team greatly.
Goloubef has been paired much of the season with senior team captain Davis Drewiske and the rookie follows his captain’s lead. As Goloubef explained, Drewiske’s guidance both on and off the ice has greatly aided his collegiate acclimation process.
“He’s taken me under his wing real nicely and kind of showed me what I can and cannot do on and off the ice and has given me some pointers,” he said. “We have good chemistry and always know where each other are. We play with an umbilical cord – whenever I get hit, he gets hit kind of thing. We work it as a two-man unit and try to be as successful as possible backing each other up and staying positive at all times. So it’s been real good.”
To date, Goloubef has posted six points (one goal, five assists) playing in all 22 games for the Badgers. His first collegiate point (an assist) came in the season opening game versus Notre Dame in the Lefty McFadden Tournament on Oct. 12. His first collegiate goal, on the power play, came on Nov. 3 versus Michigan Tech. It was also the game winner.
A team is usually a reflection of their coach and nowhere is that more evident in college hockey than at Wisconsin. The passion and love for the game that lies within Eaves and his coaching staff can be seen in their players as well. It is an attribute that relentlessly drives coaches and players alike to succeed and Goloubef is no exception.
“He is so passionate about everything that you do and because of that, I think it has rubbed off on our whole team,” Goloubef said in speaking about his head coach. “You can kind of see how passionate everybody is in practice. Everyone is working hard on every drill and battling it out until the whistle. It shows in games because we don’t lose many battles. When we’re down, we’re all ready to go and get it back going and not stop or let down because we’re so passionate about winning here. I think Coach Eaves has really instilled that in a lot of guys, which has helped a lot.
“It’s really easy playing for him and Coach Os because they’re so understanding. They never really get mad at you. They just more or less go from the approach of trying to help you out. So far, they’ve taught me a lot such as how to play in my own zone, telling me not to hold on to the puck too long and how to make quicker decisions. They’ve also taught me how to find the holes in the offensive zone and stuff like that have all helped to improve my game and make me a better player.”
“He’s very diligent about what he does on and off the ice,” Eaves said of his young defenseman. “Cody is easy to talk with, and he’s eager. He’s one of these young men that when you tell him what needs to be done, he has the common sense to know that he needs to get this done. I think his parents have done a very nice job of raising a very responsible young guy that understands that school is part of the program and that education is important. It’s interesting that the guys that are usually pretty good student-athletes are the guys who are pretty diligent at the rink and pretty intelligent hockey players. The fact that Cody was 17 turning 18, and playing against older guys, he’s handled it pretty darn well for a young man. I think that probably says more about who Cody is as a person than anything, which is an exciting thing because you want to have people that are quality people that are intelligent and competitive. And the way that Cody has adapted to the college game at such a young age so far is a pretty good indication of who he is.”
Outlook for the draft
Goloubef is ranked 48th on the NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings. Early projections have him going mid-to-late second round. Goloubef’s draft stock has steadily risen since his collegiate debut in the fall and should continue to do so. He has already garnered considerable interest throughout the scouting community and Eaves has received a handful of inquiries from unspecified NHL teams about his young defenseman.