Pavel Gogolev has been a member of the Maple Leafs organization for less than a month, so if you’re not familiar with Go-Go, you’ll want to watch some Marlies games this fall, so you can see what all the fuss is about.
Born in Russia, Gogolev played youth hockey in Moscow in the same club his father and older brother played for, but came to Canada when he was 13 to join the Pursuit of Excellence Academy in Kelowna, BC. The POE academy was an elite training program run by David Roy, a former skating coach for several NHL teams; it was sold in 2020 to Rink Hockey Academy. The concept is elite-level player training, access to teams in local leagues for boys and girls of various ages, all while they attend a local high school.
Gogolev played in the U15 leagues for two years. When he was actually 15, he joined a similar establishment, The CIH Academy in eastern Ontario, and played in a league in the area. Gogolev managed to score 38 goals, add 30 assists and end up with 68 points in 46 games. Unfortunately that fell short of the top player on his team, one Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, who had 70 points that year. They rank sixth and eighth all-time in the league.
In 2016, Gogolev was the first pick of the Peterborough Petes in the OHL draft, 8th overall. He went immediately to the OHL, playing a full season at 16/17 that looked like what a lot of players produce when they join a team that young. Compare Gogolev with five goals and six assists in 53 games to Ty Voit with eight goals and 20 assists in 49 games. The ice time most 16-year-olds get in the OHL just isn’t enough to really get a handle on what they can do.
In his second season, approaching his first draft-eligible year, he had 30 goals and 17 assists in 47 games. Once again, he ranked a few total points behind Der-Arguchintsev, with Gogolev scoring the goals and SDA setting them up. The two of them were 11th and 13th in the OHL in points for U18 players (Rasmus Sandin was 15th). Almost everyone above Gogolev in points was drafted, but below him the list of players becomes a mix of “topped out in junior” types and others who are in the NHL right now like Liam Foudy. Points aren’t the whole story, ever, but why wasn’t he drafted?
Dobber prospects has this scouting report that gets right to it:
Deft puck handler with good vision and a dangerous shot. Needs to improve his all-around game but he has the offensive tools to grow into a depth scorer at the NHL level if all goes right.
Every scouting report from back in 2018 to 2020, when there was a consensus he would finally be drafted, says the same things: His playmaking lags his scoring; he needs to work on his play away from the puck; his offensive skill overshadows the rest of his game. Meanwhile the glowing reports of his shot, quick release, vision around the net and all the other things that get the puck behind the goalie are very tantalizing.
He wasn’t drafted because teams thought the points were all there was. And you need to be not just very good at scoring in the OHL to get away with that, you need to be spectacular.
That said, as an undrafted free agent, he’s probably the best, most skilled player in that category in some time. Trevor Moore was a big points man in the NCAA who was overlooked for being too small and too in the shadow of his linemates, but as we saw immediately on the Marlies, Moore had a complete game. Gogolev has already been on the Marlies, though, and he showed exactly what all those scouting reports lead you to expect: Go-Go scores go-goals.
Hardev collected them all and more here:
Or, courtesy of Mark Rackham, who writes for MLHS and provides excellent Marlies coverage, you can watch them all here:
And this is his last year in junior for the Petes and the Storm, when he had so many points, his highlight video takes 10 minutes!
Videos have music, and some of the clips also have commentary.
We all voted for Gogolev:
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He is the lowest ranked player to get a vote from everyone, and that is historically unusual for a player so low on the list to be unanimous ranked. There are some players we’ll meet next week who were not unanimously ranked, marking this out as more unusual. Gogolev appeals to everyone. He sure is fun was my first comment about him. But I think everyone is hesitating, either because of scouting reports, the years he went undrafted or the very few glimpses we got on the Marlies.
Like other players the Maple Leafs have brought along to have a close look at, he’s got improvements he needs to make, and the Leafs organization believes they can do that. They won’t always, or even often, end up with an NHL player, but they usually end up with a player who leaves better than he arrived. And the hardest thing to teach a player is shooting skill, so Gogolev is a very good player to try to develop — now while he might be still young enough.
Brigstew: I liked the signing of Gogolev to an AHL contract last year. He was fun in the OHL, ending his career there as one of the top offensive forwards. But he was never drafted in part because his play outside of producing offensively was suspect, and he was said to have pretty poor skating. By all accounts, his skating improved or at least he didn’t look out of place in the AHL when I watched a couple of their games late in the season. He didn’t get into a lot of games, so his good offensive production can be viewed a little suspect. But they did sign him to an ELC, which they have not done with a lot of their other undrafted free agents. I’m going to trust that they saw enough in him to make that deal, and maybe he can become something in the NHL with further development.
Hardev: Go Go Go! A blast of energy and excitement in the middle of a depressing AHL season, I know for a fact that the emotion from his arrival has carried him higher in my eyes than Gogolev probably deserves. That said, his highlights (and the quantity of highlights) speaks for itself with him. He’s a prospect I expected to see drafted in the mid rounds when he was 18, so this development trajectory from decent OHLer to good AHLer at 21 is what you would hope for in a prospect. Also he was right on top of the league the moment he arrived, playing both incredibly well offensively and showing the work to be a good possession player. His ability to hold the puck in the middle of the ice or fight off a defender along the boards is there in the offensive zone, he just needs to apply himself in the defensive zone.
Most people in the Community Vote ranked Gogolev right where we did, in the 15 and under area of the list. So, now that we’ve had a chance to look over the unranked, the honourable mentions and the first few ranked players, do you still think that’s where he belongs?
Should we have ranked Pavel Gogolev a little higher?
This poll is closed
No, he’s a big maybe.
Yes, he should be in the top 15 at least.
Ask me next summer.