While the New York Islanders finally announced signings earlier this week, one of the biggest remaining questions is on defense. With Nick Leddy having been dealt to the Detroit Red Wings in July to clear much-needed cap space, the Islanders lost a second-pairing defenseman and their best puck-moving blueliner.
So far the Islanders haven’t been able to fill the void through free agency or a trade. That’s not to say general manager Lou Lamoriello doesn’t have one more move up his sleeve, but there is a player currently on the Islanders’ roster who can at least fill part of that role.
That is 21-year old Noah Dobson, who has played on the bottom pairing since making his debut on October 9, 2019.
Dobson started his career alongside Johnny Boychuk that year and then found himself with Andy Greene in 2020. His linemates were a luxury as both players had played strong defense, which allowed Dobson the opportunity to be honed in on his offensive skill set.
statistically, his first two seasons paint a pretty optimistic picture that Dobson has what it takes to fill the role.
When Dobson first broke into the league, it seemed nerves got the better of him. He’d attempt to make the right play, but not quick enough. This led to opportunities for the opponents, which led turned into goals.
However, that didn’t mean there weren’t glimpses of what Dobson could become.
— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) October 9, 2019
Noah Dobson carrying out this puck makes this play happen – 13ARZY and Eberle do the rest.
— IslesBlog (@IslesBlog) March 11, 2020
After another season under his belt, Noah Dobson started to play the way the scouts said he would. The way he showcased at the World Juniors in May of 2019. He was more confident with each pass and made the proper decisions more often than not.
He saw an uptick in his minutes, even getting the opportunity to quarterback the Islanders’ top power-play unit.
In 46 games played last season, Dobson recorded 14 points, with three goals and 11 assists. That was an uptick in production from his rookie season, where he had a goal and six assists in the 34 games he played in the year prior.
For the mathematicians, he collected 0.21 points per game in 2019-20 and saw that rise to 0.30 in 2020-21. He averaged over three more minutes in playing time per game due to the dynamic player that he became for the Islanders.
An increase in minutes led to better stats and growth in his confidence. Back in the QMJHL, scouts called Dobson a strong two-way defenseman, and now it’s easy to see why.
In regards to decision-making, Dobson’s turnovers per game got better. While it was a slight increase from year one to year two, 0.7 to 0.5 turnovers per game, there was an improvement. He had one less turnover this season than he did his rookie campaign, having played 12 more games.
When Noah Dobson was on the ice in 2020-21, the Islanders held possession 52.6% of the time. That was an increase from his mark in his rookie campaign, which was at 51.4%.
Dobson’s offensive numbers were an improvement, but what stands out is that it was more than just goals and assists. Dobson created five goals this season, breaking through the number he had in the season prior, which was two.
Based on plays made during games, the Islanders were expected to score 24.8 goals in 2020-21, a nice increase from the 19.1 he posted in year one. The Expected Goals For stat is discussed here rather than just Goals For because Dobson’s job is to create the opportunity and bury one from time to time. It’s up to his teammates to finish the plays off.
Get yourself a guy like Noah Dobson pic.twitter.com/lrUFODF9Cl
— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) February 17, 2021
The last indication that Dobson can be more active in the offensive makeup of the team in year three is due to the power-play opportunity he was given.
Head coach Barry Trotz had Dobson quarterbacking the top unit. A player in this position has to be able to dish the puck accurately and deceptively. Although the power play was not all too great for the Islanders, 18.8% (ranked 20th), he got the experience and will only grow because of it.
With him on the ice, the Islanders scored eight power-play goals. While he did not score any himself, that is entirely okay as it shows more evidence on the conversation at hand. He had five power-play assists this past season compared to only one he had during his rookie campaign.
The Islanders scored another three goals, which Noah Dobson did not record a point on, to bring his total to eight for the year. But based on the magnitude of passing that occurs on the power play, he more than likely played a part.
The slight improvement across the stat sheet could be the baseline for what is to come if given a more prominent role this upcoming season, which he should get.
Now the goal in year three is to see Dobson continue to improve over an entire 82-game season. Each game of the 2021-22 season should showcase if Dobson is ready to be the puck-moving defenseman the team needs.