Early this season, the New York Islanders had felt the loss of puck-moving defenseman Nick Leddy. No one on the backend showcased his skillset as the Islanders’ transition game lacked that type of player. When top offensive-defenseman Ryan Pulock went down with a lower-body injury, the Islanders needed someone to step up and provide offense.
In the 3-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, 21-year old Noah Dobson played hero as he netted the game-winner, and over the last few months has shown that he could be that kind of player for the Islanders.
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 1, 2022
Although it did not happen overnight, 21-year old Noah Dobson has not only developed into the player that the Islanders expected when they drafted him 12th overall back in 2018 but has transcended this Islanders team as of late.
Over his first few seasons in the NHL, Dobson had been hesitant in all facets of his game.
Whether it was deciding where to send the puck, when to join in on the rush, or where to be in the defensive zone, it seemed that a lack of confidence in his ability overtook the decision-making that got him drafted as high as he was.
With defensemen Devon Toews and Leddy dealt in back-to-back offseasons, Dobson’s development has been on a fast track, as management has thrown him into elevated roles despite his lack of NHL experience.
With veteran leaders on the backend to learn from over his time at the NHL level, in Johnny Boychuk, Andy Greene, and Zdeno Chara, to name a few, Dobson has learned a great deal in a short amount of time.
Especially over the last month or so, Dobson has joined in on the rush on a nightly basis. His puck-moving ability has been on display, as well as his skating ability. Not only that, but he has shot the puck at a significantly higher rate this season than he has over his short NHL career.
The Islanders’ first goal back on Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres was a perfect example of Dobson’s development and how it’s paying dividends for the offense.
let it rip! pic.twitter.com/d9cplQ7FvD
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 31, 2021
This season Dobson has recorded 56 shots on goal in 26 games, which averages 2.15 shots per game. Dobson had 69 shots in 46 games in 2020-21 (1.5 shots per game) and 37 shots in 34 games back in 2019-20 (1.09), his rookie season.
It has not just been the Islanders’ even-strength play where Dobson has shined, but he is coming into his own on the power play. Quarterbacking the first unit, Dobson’s passing at the point has been crisper than we have seen before.
He’s quick to move the puck, and it has allowed the Islanders’ power play to come through often as of late.
The Islanders are four for their last 12 power-play chances (34%), and Dobson has collected a point on two of them.
“He’s been playing great lately,” defenseman Adam Pelech said regarding Dobson’s play. “He’s obviously a super talented player. We’ve known that since the first time I saw him play and it’s really all coming together for him.
“Especially over this last month or whatever it’s been, he’s taken his game to a new level and we are all thrilled to see it.”
As Pelech mentioned, Dobson had a rather productive December. He picked up eight points (4G, 4A) in 10 games during December and has continued right where he left with two points (1G, 1A) in the first January game.
A tell-end stat that shows just how critical Dobson’s play has been is the fact that he has been on the ice for the Islanders’ last seven goals.
With Pulock close to returning, what happens to the backend when he returns?
The right side is pretty pact with Mayfield, Dobson, and Greene at the moment, but Greene can also play on the left side, which seems like the only viable option. Rookie Robin Salo has done his job, as he’s filled in for missing personnel.
But when Pulock returns, Salo will no longer need and will either be placed on the taxi squad or sent back down the Bridgeport, where he can play often and continue developing.
With how Dobson has played recently, despite the struggles of his defensive partner Zdeno Chara, it has been working and the minutes need to be there. With Pulock coming off a significant lower-body injury, slotting him in alongside Greene as the third pairing is not the worst idea as he works his way back.
That also allows for Pelech and Mayfield to continue to play together.
Throughout the first couple of months of the season, it seemed the Islanders needed to bring in a player on the backend. But the play of Dobson has made that need a complete afterthought.
The youngster has made the most of his new role, and as the Islanders look to get back in the playoff picture, Dobson will need to continue playing to that elite level.
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