Vancouver Canucks: The best time to call up Nikolay Goldobin

VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 31: Nikolay Goldobin
VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 31: Nikolay Goldobin /

Right now, the Vancouver Canucks are currently crowded at forward, but need a boost in scoring. Important roster moves can create an opportunity for Nikolay Goldobin.

The Vancouver Canucks are a much more exciting team this year. Team defence is still the primary priority, but head coach Travis Green has given us fun hockey to watch. It is a refreshing change from the soul-sucking trap game employed by Willie Desjardins.

The team has been successful this year and despite the 5-3 win over the Calgary Flames, the team still needs help scoring goals. As of writing, the team is ranked 20th in goals for, according to the NHL stats page. This is a vast improvement over last year, but if the team wants to be a legitimate contender, it’s preferable that our goal scoring is in the top half of the league.

As the season wears on, someone who could provide that offensive jolt is Nikolay Goldobin. He is leading the Utica Comets with six goals and 13 points in 11 games. Offensive production was never a concern for Goldobin. We all know he can be very productive and use his vision on the ice and creative playmaking to contribute offensively.

Why Goldobin stays in Utica

What has held him back is his play away from the puck. Willie Desjardins punished Goldobin for cheating on defence last season. Since Travis Green’s system is focused on defence first, he would have to be responsible in his own end.

Our resident expert on the Utica Comets, Tyler Shipley had a few important notes about Goldobin’s progress this season:

"Cull or someone has gotten through to him because he’s coming back harder than he used to. Not only that, he’s more tenacious in retrieving pucks. He’s been killing penalties and that’s helped him get more comfortable defending. When he played in [Vancouver] last season it often seemed like he wasn’t sure where to be in [our end], so he sometimes hovered a bit. He seems to be defending with more purpose now, even gaining confidence on that side of the puck."

A quote from Ryan Johnson, GM of the Utica Comets has further encouraging words about Goldobin:

This is a good sign for a future callup to the Canucks. Desjardins had an overcomplicated system last season, which explains why Goldobin looked lost.

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Green’s new system is straightforward and relies on hard work and quick feet. He can take what he has learned in Utica and apply it to the Canucks. Additionally, I am believe that Goldobin is becoming a more complete player that should transition to this Canucks team seamlessly later this season.

Expectations from Ryan Johnson

With the recent injury to Markus Granlund, many figured that Goldobin would have been the first callup since he was leading the team. Reid Boucher was brought up instead. He is second in points on the Comets, but I was wondering why Goldobin would not get the shot. Then, I remembered a quote from Johnson also given on Monday:

There are a few ways to interpret this quote, but I think Johnson wants to make sure that Goldobin is a bona fide part of the roster when he is called up. He does not want Goldobin to just be an insurance forward that will be sent down by the end of the week. I’m sure Johnson would love to have him back if the Canucks miss the playoffs and Utica goes on a run for the Calder Cup, but he wants Goldobin to be a regular in the NHL.

Necessary roster changes

I believe the best time to call up Goldobin will be during the 2018 Trade Deadline. At the deadline, the Canucks should trade Thomas Vanek, regardless of where we are in the standings. Vanek has shown that he is able to bring back a couple of draft picks at the deadline.

You may be wondering if the departure of Vanek will hurt our playoff chances. The Calgary Flames unloaded expiring assets at the 2015 Trade Deadline and had no problem making the playoffs. They also defeated the Canucks in a forgettable first round exit.

Besides, moving Vanek creates a spot on the roster for Nikolay Goldobin. Let’s assume that a healthy Loui Eriksson plays on the shutdown line with Brandon Sutter and Derek Dorsett. Markus Granlund can centre his own line and two of Sam Gagner, Brendan Gaunce and Goldobin can play on his wings. We could consider Alexander Burmistrov, but I figure he will be moved for a small return or simply be in the press box by this point of the season. An inevitable team injury could also create room for Goldobin.

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Both scenarios would give Goldobin his opportunity to solidify a roster spot for himself. It would be nice to see Goldobin with the team sooner, but since he is not waiver-eligible, he must beat out other veterans on the team. As long as Jim Benning moves his expiring assets at the deadline, then there should be room for Goldobin. From there, it will be up to him to secure a permanent spot on the team.