Joseph
Aleong
January 11, 2022

The Analysis: A deep look at David Goyette’s game

David Goyette was one of many young players affected by the cancellation of the 2020-21 OHL season.

Last year, Goyette headed south and played briefly with the USPHL’s Jr. Islanders, where his electric skillset made him stand out in his short stay with the tier-two junior league squad. 

And Goyette, the Sudbury Wolves’ first-round pick in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection, has been handed a larger role than expected this season due to the departure of Quinton Byfield.

Goyette has stepped in as a first line forward for Sudbury in the early part of the season and handled himself very well. Despite missing out on the entirety of his rookie season, he seems to be making up for lost time with his energetic style of play and confidence with the puck. 

FILLING SOME BIG SHOES

While you’d expect someone who only played in four games last season to be a little bit rusty after a long layoff, Goyette started off the Ontario Hockey League campaign on an impressive run of form for a Wolves team that had to lean on their youth early. Alongside recent OHL first overall pick Quentin Musty, Goyette has been asked to shoulder a big offensive load early in the season due to the absence of Byfield, the former franchise pivot.

While some inconsistency is to be expected from OHL rookies, Goyette’s scoring pace has remained strong through the first quarter of the season. 

It’s clear when watching him that Goyette possesses the tools to be a prolific scorer in the OHL, as his constant movement and impressive skills with the puck make him a player that brings fans out of their seats on a regular basis. However, only partially through his first season, Goyette will need to show off his talent consistently to stand out among a stacked ‘double’ rookie class in Ontario. 

PUCKHANDLING 

Goyette’s calling card is his electrifying puckhandling skills, as he shows both the confidence and the quick hands to challenge defenders and make them miss in all three zones. He excels at making moves to slip past checks in open ice, which makes him a dangerous threat when carrying on the rush. 

In this clip, Goyette (No. 88, white) makes a high-risk move in his own end to slip through a well-defended route on the breakout, creating a partial odd-man rush chance. He then draws the defender towards him upon entering the offensive zone before making a pass to the middle of the ice. 

In another transition chance shown below, Goyette is able to corral a difficult bouncing puck under pressure and, with a smooth first touch, beats the primary Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defender with a high-speed deke that opens up a short-area 2-on-1 opportunity. 

Particularly off the rush, Goyette’s affinity for making flashy moves and his willingness to stickhandle into traffic can lead to poor turnovers in the middle of the ice or just over the offensive blue line. The frequency of his carries in transition versus his passing plays seemingly magnifies his poor decisions, but Goyette has to make more consistently strong decisions with the puck to earn special teams opportunities at the pro level. 

Here, Goyette has speed and teammate support entering the offensive zone on the power play, but he tries to carry directly through three Peterborough Petes defenders in the middle of the ice. Instead of utilizing his speed to go wide and set up the power play in the offensive end, the Petes are able to recover the loose puck and clear the zone. 

Still, Goyette’s low skating stance allows him to carry the puck in his hip pocket even at high speed, making it easier for him to protect the puck when maneuvering through traffic and pull quick dekes to make defenders miss in space. And while he still has room to increase his strength and weight, his low stance gives him good strength on his edges and makes him hard to knock off the puck.

Goyette’s quick feet and hands make him elusive and dangerous when creating off of in-zone cycle plays, absorbing contact along the wall and using his vision to make quick plays under pressure.

In this clip below, Goyette uses his edges to create space from one defender in the corner and a quick deke to beat the winger off the boards, drawing both towards him and opening up a prime shooting opportunity for his linemate in the slot area.

Goyette still wavers at times with his physical engagement and strength in board battles, but his comfort handling the puck in traffic and his ability to shrug off physical contact when he’s engaged are both promising signs he can continue to generate offense as he moves to higher levels. 

SKATING ABILITY

Goyette is a quality skater who has good mechanics and shows effortless acceleration and edgework at times. His straightline speed, while not quite at an elite, top-of-class level, is excellent and creates many chances in transition through an explosive first step and quick foot-speed. 

Here’s a good look at his mechanics, starting from a standstill when he steals an errant pass in the neutral zone. Using just one quick crossover to pick up speed, Goyette shows long, powerful strides and good puck control at high speed to generate a dangerous shorthanded partial breakaway.

There is definitely some room for improvement in this department, including his limited use of linear crossovers to build speed and increasing his lower-body strength and power in his strides. However, his top speed is already among the best in this year’s Ontario draft class and allows him to be a true difference-maker at even strength and on special teams.

Here’s an example of Goyette’s open ice speed creating a prime scoring opportunity despite missing a breakout pass that’s in his feet.

He’s able to attain his top speed in just a few strides, surprising a Barrie Colts defender and beating him to the loose puck in the offensive zone with explosive straight-line speed. Goyette’s offensive awareness is also on display on this play, as he spots a streaking linemate through the middle of the ice with a quick shoulder check and makes a one-touch play to the slot for a dangerous chance. 

As mentioned, Goyette’s low stance allows him to make quick cuts to create space for himself and he uses subtle fakes to exploit the footwork of checkers when he’s under pressure. In the below clip, Goyette picks up a loose puck in his own zone with two forecheckers in the defensive zone. He uses his edgework and quick hands to avoid pressure in the middle of the ice, but a Peterborough forward appears to have a good angle on him in the neutral zone.

Goyette’s excellent agility and deceptiveness when carrying the puck are on display here, as he makes the forechecker miss with a tight turn along the boards. While he collides with his own teammate, denying a clean zone entry, Goyette’s ability to beat defenders in open ice is invaluable for creating entries with favorable numbers for his team, making him arguably the best transition carrying option on his team. 

PLAYMAKING VISION

Goyette’s confidence handling the puck at high speed and his ability to manipulate defenders’ positioning with his hands makes him a dangerous rush threat, as he has the puckhandling to get into high-danger areas and the vision to find open teammates through quick seams. 

In this clip, Goyette receives a pass on a partial odd-man rush as the trailing forward. Spotting the left defenseman for Barrie sagging too low in coverage, Goyette freezes the goaltender with a no-look play and finds a streaking teammate with a cross-seam pass for an easy tap-in. 

Goyette’s poise with the puck is evident on the rush, but his playmaking abilities and vision are also evident off in-zone plays, making him a focus point on the half-wall on the power play. His patience with the puck is impressive, allowing him an extra step to diagnose passing lanes and find a teammate with a creative play. 

In this power play clip, Goyette receives a pass below the faceoff dot with time to spare. With space, he begins to creep towards the goal line, drawing a defender down towards the crease and opening up a small window in the slot for a teammate. Goyette makes a quick seam pass to earn an assist on the man-advantage marker.

His quick hands in traffic gives him the confidence to make difficult plays under pressure and, while he can be guilty at times of trying to force the puck into tight coverage, he is still relatively consistent in his decision-making around the offensive end. 

Goyette is also constantly trying to push the pace of play, particularly in transition. His quick hands give him the ability to read defensive coverage and make plays at high speed, and he’s constantly trying to feed the middle of the ice once he crosses the offensive blue line. 

On this particular play, Goyette attacks the offensive blue line with speed before moving wide, opening a lane for a shot attempt inside the dot lane. The shot is blocked wide, but Goyette follows up the play, collects a bouncing puck behind the net, and then quickly spots a teammate for a dangerous shot in front.

His aggressiveness and nose for the net are consistent parts of his game, creating chances and trying to prolong shifts in the offensive zone even when his point production is inconsistent. 

DEFENSIVE GAME

Goyette has displayed some impressive versatility early on, shuffling around different spots in the Wolves lineup and playing a consistent role on both special teams. He has spent most of his time, however, as Sudbury’s top-line pivot between two other rookies, fellow 2022 eligible Evan Konyen and Musty, eligible in 2023.

While his intensity in the defensive zone and attention to detail in the defensive zone are still working their way to the pace of the OHL, Goyette has shown promising signs off the puck from the centre position and the awareness to support his defensemen in physical battles low in his own zone. Here’s a good example of Goyette sniffing out a cycle play behind the net, and then using his leverage and strong edges to win a physical battle against a bigger player.

His strong skating abilities allows him to be effective in puck battles despite not possessing the biggest frame. For the most part, however, Goyette makes an impact with superior positioning and anticipation, particularly in transition plays. He does a good job reading the opposing breakout and taking away the middle of the ice, making him an effective player at defending the rush at even strength and on the penalty kill.

On this play, Goyette anticipates a cross-ice neutral zone pass with a shoulder check, then takes advantage of aggressive defensive positioning to make a quick no-look pass to a linemate, leading to a partial breakaway chance. 

Despite such a lack of high-level competition over the last couple of years, Goyette’s ability to consistently push the pace of play and anticipate defensive reads give confidence he can remain at center long-term. 

This clip shows his prowess at turning transition opportunities into offense, his ability to read the play and create turnovers in his own end all working together to generate a dangerous scoring chance on an odd-man rush. 

His early call out to a teammate is to pick up the high forward on the rush, leaving him to angle off the trailing defenseman and use an active stick to create the turnover shows impressive awareness. 

WRAPPING UP

Goyette has highlight-reel talent and puck skills, making him a name to watch for the 2022 NHL Draft and beyond.

While he’s still not even halfway through his first season in the league, Goyette has already proven he belongs in the conversation among the league’s most exciting young players. His overall two-way game and intensity on the puck are still relatively raw, but he is holding his own in a tough, all-situations role for a team that’s going to be overmatched at times against veteran OHL teams. 

He has the talent to project as a potential top-six forward at the NHL level and potentially as a top scoring forward in the OHL in a couple of years. However, due to his short track record against high-level competition and inconsistent point production so far this year, Goyette projects to be a top-two round selection. 

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