SAN JOSE – Less than a year ago, Nikolay Goldobin was one of the more talked about players in Sharks training camp. The then 18-year-old showed plenty of offensive flash and skill in preseason action, even spending some time on the wing of Joe Thornton. He was one of the final roster cuts.
Still, Goldobin wasn’t ready for the best league in the world, if only because of his slight frame. The 5-foot-10 Russian native had to put on some weight and get more experience competing against men that were bigger, older and stronger than he was. On the advice of agent Igor Larionov and Sharks GM Doug Wilson, Goldobin spent most of the 2014-15 season in Finland, where he posted 11 goals and 21 points in 38 games in a man’s league. He was added to AHL Worcester’s roster late in the year, tallying 3 goals and 5 points in 9 games.
Goldobin admitted that his first few games in Finland were difficult, but after about 15 games, he felt more comfortable.
“Every game was better and better,” said Goldobin, in town for the Sharks annual prospect camp.
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“Of course, the guys are thinking faster. You have to make decisions faster. There’s no time to think. More physical play.”
Just as important as that experience is that he’s growing. Goldobin said he’s now weighing in a 185 pounds, or 10 more than last year. He’d still like to put on five more pounds, too, which may be possible. Goldobin will train with Larionov for a couple weeks later this summer in Detroit before returning for training camp in September.
“I think for myself I need to have control of my body and play hard against the big guys in the NHL,” Goldobin said.
Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer, who is essentially running this week’s camp, gave his latest impression of the Sharks’ 2014 first round pick after seeing him with the Worcester Sharks in April.
“He’s got offense. When he wants to go, he’s pretty good,” Sommer said. “I think the big thing with him, he’s got to get a little more consistent, but offensively he’s got all the tools. He sees the ice real well. He’s just got to play both ends of the ice and get the confidence in the new coaching staff.”
From Sommer’s perspective, teaching Goldobin how to play at both ends of the rink at the pro level should be achievable. The pure offensive skill that Goldobin possesses, though, can’t be taught.
“Anyone can teach defense or play defense, but not a lot of guys are gifted offensively,” Sommer said.
Goldobin said: “Maybe I have the skill, but I need to do the little details to play in the NHL.”
Goldobin is the only Russian native at development camp, but he wasn’t the only Russian on the ice on Thursday. He was seen chatting for a little while with former Sharks goalie and Kazakhstan native Evgeni Nabokov, who was serving as a “guest instructor,” according to a team spokesman. The club has hinted that Nabokov could join the club in some capacity now that he’s retired, but nothing has become official.
“It’s nice to see him. He’s an NHL star, and we were talking about life and some things,” Goldobin said. “He’s a good guy.”
Goldobin, who turns 20 on Oct. 7, is eligible to play for the Sharks’ new AHL affiliate in the fall. That could be the most logical place for him to begin, after the Sharks were guilty of rushing a few players into the league last year.
Still, his aim is to be on the Sharks’ opening night roster.
“Of course it’s my dream to make the team,” Goldobin said. “It’s my second year. I’m going to work harder than I was the first camp. I hope the coaches will like it.”