Noah Dobson’s ‘trusted’ name for impressive evolution game for Islanders

The ceiling was always going to be high for young New York Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson.

The first-round pick (No. 12 overall) was considered one of the steals of the 2018 draft that saw the Islanders walk away with him and Oliver Wahlstrom (11th) in back-to-back picks.

At 18, he did the unthinkable to break through the ranks – more out of necessity as he would have been stuck in the juniors for another year – to get minutes in a team led by Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz who are still hesitant to play young.

With an arsenal of two-way abilities, Dobson saw playoff minutes at age 20 while being gradually and carefully brought in by Trotz. He still plays with veteran defenders – working first with Andy Greene, 38, and now skating alongside Zdeno Chara, 44 – to gain as much knowledge as possible.

All the while, his ice time increased; 13 minutes per game in 2019-20, 16 minutes per game in 2021, and now 20:23 per game.

And it was desperately needed.

The Islanders lost their best puck-moving defenseman in Nick Leddy by trade during the offseason. Ryan Pulock has been out since mid-November due to injury.

For a team ravaged by COVID and injuries, a non-existent offense had to have some kind of production from its blue line – especially when that offense was largely contained within the perimeter.

After an 11-game losing streak that stretched from November to December, Dobson upped his game and answered the call.

In his last 10 games, the defenseman, who will turn 22 on Friday, has amassed 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) while averaging 22:36 of ice time. Four of those points came on a power play that has been scorching lately thanks to his quarterback – converting on 9 of his last 26 (34.6%) human-advantage opportunities after posting a meager conversion of 10.2% rate over their first 18 games of the season.

He’s been a direct catalyst for the recent form of the Islanders who have scored in nine of their last 11 games.

[READ: Islanders optimism increasing as lineup finally nears full strength]

“He’s been playing really well lately,” teammate Adam Pelech said. “He’s obviously a super talented player. We know that from the first time I saw him play. Everything falls into place for him.

What was the catalyst for the evolution of his game? Confidence.

“He plays with a lot more confidence. I think that’s huge for anyone who plays this game or any athlete,” future Hall of Famer Chara said of his partner in Dobson who is half his age. “Confidence has a lot to do with your success and you can see it in his game that he makes a few plays, being there for us at crucial times. His hockey sense, his skating ability and he’s playing really well in this moment. “

It was no more evident than in the Islanders’ 3-2 New Year’s Day victory over the Edmonton Oilers when Dobson, in overtime, received a pass from Mathew Barzal at center ice and worked his way into the opposing zone, snaking between the points. before ripping off an accurate wrist shot to carry New York to victory.

He wasn’t the kind of Noah Dobson you saw just a few months ago. He is the one who seems – understand this – more confident in his abilities to lead the Islanders’ blue line.

“I think he just plays with a lot more confidence. He has improved since day one,” added associate head coach Lane Lambert. “He skates, he moves the puck, he carries the puck. I think it’s just because of his confidence level. He’s always had that in him but I think mentally he’s taken it to the next level.

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