A very famous poet by the name of Yoda once said “Patience you must have, my young padawan.” For the New York Islanders, patience has paid off for third-year NHLer Noah Dobson as he has taken his game to new heights this season.
Patience is also what many need to be had when discussing Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom, who have both shown signs of being players that can make an impact, but the consistency has not been there just yet. And Sebastian Aho, a cast-off by many after limited NHL experience, has opened some eyes over his recent play.
Noah Dobson Continues to Succeed
At 22-years old, defenseman Noah Dobson had major shoes to fill. Each season in the NHL has brought about new defensive pairings, with a more prominent role each season. He started his career with Johnny Boychuk, then was paired with Andy Greene, followed by Zdeno Chara. Although it took some time for Dobson to develop, the growth we have seen, particularly on the offensive side of the puck, has made him such an integral piece to the team’s success.
On Thursday, Noah Dobson scored his 10th goal of the season. All 10 goals have come since Dec. 5, the most by defensemen over that span. And all have come in a similar fashion, as he has shown zero hesitation to shoot the puck from the point, more often than not, getting the shot on goal.
Dobson from the blue line!
We got the lead. pic.twitter.com/kWSqb0CfTz
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) March 4, 2022
Noah Dobson now has 10 goals and 17 assists on the season and not only leads all Islanders defensemen in goals, assists, and points (27) but is also third on the Islanders in points. He also leads all New York Islanders with 127 shots on the season.
One area of Dobson’s game that he has to improve upon is his turnovers, as he is second on the Islanders with 50, trailing the team leader in Mathew Barzal by three (53). But you can also look at this stat and know that Dobson has had the puck on his stick more and is more involved, so take it as you may.
Wahlstrom & Bellows Going Through the Process
Both Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows have been treated with kid gloves by New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz.
There’s a reason for Trotz’s decisions as he wants to mold these two young forwards into two-way players, not just one-dimensional ones, understandably so. And consistency has been the most significant issue for these two forwards, as you are not sure what you will get on a nightly basis. The potential is there for both to be effective players for the Islanders.
Because of their inconsistencies, their minutes have been limited. After the loss on Thursday, in which both played under 10 minutes, I asked Trotz what he saw from his two youngsters.
“Well, you know a little bit with Belly (Bellows), I thought decisions,” Trotz said. “I mean, that first goal (against) started…he was tired, and he wanted to make another play, and it ended up going the other way.”
Kieffer Bellows, in 9:04 TOI, failed to record a shot on goal, with just one hit.
The 23-year old has played in 28 of the Islanders 51 games this season and has averaged 12:07 minutes per game with four goals and nine assists. A few weeks back, Trotz had said that he believed Bellows was ready to transition to more of an everyday player, but that does not mean that the work is done.
There is still a lot to learn, and a lot of that learning comes from making mistakes.
For Oliver Wahlstrom, Trotz was more optimistic about his play from Thursday.
“I thought Wally, his offensive game had some pop to it. He got frozen with a little bit of the movement that Vancouver throws at you, which is still part of his learning process,” Trotz said. “But I liked the way he was skating. He had some pop in his offensive game for sure.”
Wahlstrom had two shots on the night and a takeaway in his 9:37 TOI.
For Wahlstrom, there is no question that he can be an elite goal scorer in the NHL. And maybe that future has him slotted alongside Mathew Barzal. But right now, that emphasis is on him becoming a more well-rounded player.
Oliver Wahlstrom has not scored in 11 straight games, and the Islanders need his offense to shine through at a higher rate. With the lack of minutes he receives on a nightly basis, he’s going to have to make the most of those minutes.
For both Bellows and Wahlstrom, with the season playing out the way it has, it will be interesting to see if Trotz gives both a longer leash to help with their developments.
Before this season, Sebastian Aho did not seem to have the tools to be an NHLer. He played more like a forward, with defensive lapses left and right. But Sebastian Aho, this season, has been given significantly more time than he has ever received at the NHL level and has looked more comfortable and confident on both sides of the puck in each passing game.
“I think he wanted to make an immediate impact offensively, and the balance was a little bit off,” Trotz said Thursday evening. “I think he’s come to grips where he’s got a better balance between his game and trying to impress or produce and just getting a nice balance.
“When you get the balance, you are going to produce enough. The trade-off is going to be much better.”
Sebastian Aho has zero goals and eight assists on the season in 17:31 TOI, with five of those assists coming in five straight games from Feb. 20- Feb. 27.
At 26 years old, Aho has developed slowly. There are still some glaring weaknesses on defense regarding his size 5’11 and his decision-making. Many fans want to see 23-year old Robin Salo play over Aho, but it seems that the Islanders do have faith in Aho. With the losses to the defense come the end of the season, more than likely Zdeno Chara being gone, potentially Andy Greene as well, there are holes to fill.
Could Aho be a regular if he can shore up his defensive play, or is he a career seventh-defenseman type of player?
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