For most draft-eligible players, receiving a first-round grade and spot in the top 15 would be cause for celebration. But most players aren’t Sarnia Sting forward Nikolay Goldobin, a player who has set some lofty goals for himself.
“There was no reaction [to the rankings] because I want to be top five,” he said. “That’s my dream and I’m doing everything to get there.”
Goldobin, a 6’, 185-pound left-shooting right winger, is ranked 13th overall by ISS Hockey and 14th among North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service for the 2014 NHL Draft. Goldobin doesn’t just say that he feels the rankings are wrong — he feels obligated to prove them as such.
“It isn’t just that I’m better than that,” he said. “I have to be better than that.”
But Goldobin said he’s aware of what’s holding him back. “I have to play more defense and play it better,” he explained. “Work harder and play every game great.
Goldobin finished his rookie campaign last year with 30 goals and 38 assists in 68 games. This season, he’s scored 35 goals and added 46 assists in 56 games. But where last year he finished a passable -7, this year he’s a -22 on a team that’s last overall in the OHL, giving up 99 more goals than it has scored.
After playing the 2011-12 season in Russia for Russkie Vityazi Checkov in the MHL, Goldobin joined the Sting last year. He said the transition has been smooth.
“It hasn’t been difficult for me. I like it here,” he said, adding that the game of hockey can transcend language barriers. “It’s just hockey. We only have to talk hockey, you know that. So it’s just playing the game and knowing your line changes.”
This year, there are four players on the Sting who speak Russian, but Goldobin said they don’t often hang out. “Not really, we’re busy most of the time,” he said.
As a marquee offensive talent, Goldobin knows that there are going to be plenty of eyes on him throughout the year. But he doesn’t let the pressure of scouting get to him.
“I’m not nervous. I just do what I have to do,” he said. “My agent told me to play more defense and just score goals.”
And it’s a good idea for Goldobin to listen to that agent — Russian superstar Igor Larionov. And while he didn’t grow up during The Professor’s heyday, he’s well aware of Larionov’s importance to the global game.
“He’s a great player,” he said. “I know that he’s one of the great five players from Russia.”
Larionov is in frequent contact with Goldobin, helping guide him to improve his game.
“I speak with him after almost every game,” he explained. “He says I need to play with fire on the ice and play every shift. If you don’t get point, make sure you play hard.”
During the interview, Goldobin was wearing a Pittsburgh Penguins-emblazoned shirt. So it comes as no surprise as to which team is his favorite, nor should it come as any surprise as to who the young forward idolized and patterns his play after.
“[Evgeni] Malkin. I guess that’s who I model my game,” Goldobin explained. “He’s so smart — a playmaker with great technique and can do unreal things.”
With the NHL currently on its Olympic hiatus, Goldobin said he’s watching the Olympic hockey tournament intently, especially as it’s in his home country. And although he knows the vast majority of his teammates are pulling for Team Canada, he’s holding out for home-country gold.
“Yes, of course,” he said, adding there’s no tension in the dressing room. Yet. “It’s OK — we’re not fighting.”
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