When the New York Islanders drafted defenseman Noah Dobson with the 12th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, they were drafting a player who had all the tools. At the ripe age of 18, Dobson had showcased through his three QMJHL seasons that he was a strong skater and had an offensive mind but could certainly hold his own in the defensive zone.
Flash-forward five years later, Noah Dobson is a staple on the New York Islanders’ second defensive pairing and is their top offensive defenseman.
After a few years of learning the NHL game from veterans like Johnny Boychuk, Andy Greene, and Zdeno Chara, Dobson’s confidence rose exponentially early last season. Despite the Islanders dealing with a plethora of issues, primarily COVID-19, Dobson put New York on his back as best he could.
Through the final month of 2021, with Ryan Pulock injured, the Prince Edward Island native notched four goals and four assists in eight games while averaging 22:13 minutes per game.
He had never averaged more than 20 minutes per game up to that point.
With the points coming, one could see the confidence dripping off of Dobson as he skated up the ice. Over the next four months, 56 games, Dobson scored nine goals with 30 assists and finished the season as the Islanders leading shot-getter with 190.
When that season was all said and done, Dobson had 13 goals and 38 assists to his name, both career highs, as he set a career-high with 51 points and averaged minutes played with 21:28.
“When you start scoring big goals, you start having a huge impact on the game every night. You just keep stepping, stepping up the ladder, and becoming better and better,” New York Islanders veteran Matt Martin told NYI Hockey Now.”
“He’s a franchise defenseman.”
This season, Dobson has skated primarily with 22-year-old Alexander Romanov, the Islanders’ only offseason acquisition. The pairing has struggled a bit as they try to learn each other’s tendencies. Head coach Lane Lambert separated the two a few times this season, and it seems they will be separated again Friday night as Dobson skated with Sebastian Aho at morning skate.
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Individually, through 21 games in 2022-23, Dobson is third on the Islanders in goals (six) and assists (eight). He’s on pace for around 23 goals and 31 assists. Last season at the 21-game mark, Dobson only had three goals.
We saw Dobson take it to another level in the shot department a year ago, and he’s taken it a step further so far this season.
As mentioned, Dobson recorded 190 shots on goal on 401 attempts in 80 games last season. He averaged 2.375 shots per game on 5.01 attempts.
This season, Dobson has 62 shots on goal in 21 games, 2.95 per, on 140 attempts, 6.67 per.
“I like his shot mentality, Lambert said. “You know, it’s tough stuff to get shots through. And sometimes, some of those missed shots that don’t hit the net, or on purpose.. that’s the one thing you know, defenseman do. Shoot short side wide when there isn’t a lane, so they don’t get blocked, but I really thought he’s done a great job of that.”
There’s no question Noah Dobson is a lethal force offensively, but how has he faired defensively so far in 2022-23 compared to last season?
Given that his partner Romanov is a hitting and blocking machine, Dobson has seen those numbers dip a bit from last season.
After averaging .975 hits per game, he’s averaged .809 per, and his blocks have gone from 1.87 per game to 1.76.
He’s turned the puck over less, from 1.025 turnovers per game to .904. He has 14 takeaways, 0.67 per game, after just 0.33 a year ago.
On the advanced analytical front, courtesy of our friends over at Natural Stat Trick, Dobson owns an 84 Individual Corsi For. That number is calculated by taking the number of shot attempts his team gets at even strength while he is on the ice and dividing it by the number of shot attempts the opponent gets while he is on the ice.
While Dobson has been on the ice, the Islanders have outscored their opponent 16-14 but have given up over 30 more scoring chances than they’ve created, being outshot 193-188. Although those numbers are not on Dobson alone, there’s no question he is still working on the defensive side of his game.
But he’s definitely done a stronger job in terms of his decision-making.
This past summer, Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello signed Dobson to a three-year extension worth $12 million. He then followed that up by sharing what he saw in his young defenseman and what he hopes to see going forward:
“What I like about him [Dobson], which most of us see, is his hockey instincts and his offensive capabilities as far as reading plays. And I believe that the patience we had with him, the decision that we made to have him here rather than go back to juniors because he couldn’t go to American League [AHL), we knew he had the patience and he had the self-discipline to just practice every single day, get an opportunity every so often and just grew as a patient player, grew in strength and really worked at his game.
And he had the opportunity to do that and put extra sessions in after regular practices because he knew he wasn’t going to be playing. And then when he had the opportunity to get full-time, ice time as he did last year, he grew throughout the season.”
What Noah Dobson has done so far in 2022-23 is that last year wasn’t a fluke and that what we saw after the first two months of the 2021-22 season is what Dobson is. For the New York Islanders to have a player of that caliber at 22 years old is critical for their “win-now” ideology as well as their future success.