When the Islanders traded Devon Toews to Colorado back in October, there was reasonable concern that replacing him wouldnâ€™t be easy. But the Isles stood firm in the notion that sophomore Noah Dobson could do the job.
Five games into this season â€” and sure itâ€™s a small sample size â€” Dobson has proven he was more than worthy of the faith the brass and coaching staff instilled in him. More than that, heâ€™s been as advertised as the same player they Isles drafted 12th overall back in 2018.
â€œHe’s been around pros for a year, he’s got a little bit of experience and he’s had time to get stronger as a young man training properly, head coach Barry Trotz said last week in praising Dobson. â€œHe’s been practicing playing some games. He’s just grown. He’s ready to take on a real big piece of ice time this year. With the best interest of the Islanders and going forward, we knew we had to get him ready for this year. It wasn’t about last year, it was about this year.”
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) January 15, 2021
Dobsonâ€™s good start has been a bright spot for the Isles here in the early going. Minus the second game of the year at MSG, the argument can be made heâ€™s been the teamâ€™s best defenseman outside of Nick Leddy. Right now heâ€™s tied with Leddy for tops on the Isles for points as a d-man.
On Thursday, he recorded his first multi-point game of his NHL career. Dobson followed up that excellent performance on Sunday, when he was clearly the teamâ€™s best skater in their 2-0 loss in New Jersey. The 21-year-old played a career-high 22:22 and had two shots.
In both of those standout games too, the Islesâ€™ power play looked more aggressive, which is something fans have been clamoring for and can be attributed to Dobsonâ€™s presence. Their first power play in Sundayâ€™s game, the Islanders had six shots with Dobson manning one of the points.
Dobson was always known as a power play threat back in juniors, and now weâ€™re seeing why. He hasnâ€™t been afraid to shoot and makes quick decision with the puck on his stick. And as much as Ryan Pulock is the de facto power play QB, heâ€™s become the second coming in a way.
But itâ€™s not just from an offensive standpoint where Dobson is thriving. Defensively he looks extremely comfortable now that the training wheels are off.
The Isles sheltered Dobson last year in the games he played, and for good cause. He wasnâ€™t ready for big minutes yet. Thatâ€™s become a thing of the past so far as heâ€™s been paired with grizzled veteran Andy Greene. The duo have been building chemistry with each other dating back to when the Isles returned to play in the summer.
The biggest thing is just confidence and comfort level,” Dobson told reporters before last Thursdayâ€™s game. “The more you do anything, the more comfortable and confident you get. This year, I feel like I’ve got a lot more confidence with the puck and I’m trying to make plays.â€
Islandersâ€™ g.m. Lou Lamoriello said that he feels Dobson has â€œoutstanding potentialâ€. At this stage, itâ€™s hard to disagree with his analysis. Heâ€™s just one of the several young players the organization is banking on to be difference makers not only this year but beyond.
Thereâ€™s still a long way left to go in this season, but Noah Dobson is looking like heâ€™s the real deal.
The Islanders are facing the Capitals for the first time tonight since they eliminated them in five games in the bubble playoffs. The Caps are now coached by Peter Laviolette who last season got called out by Trotz for his handling of the late game power play when his Nashville Predators blew out the Isles 8-3 at the Coliseum.
Could we see some fireworks because of that situation? It would be welcome.
Another factoid to add is that the home team has won each matchup the last two seasons between the Isles and Washington. No such thing as home-ice advantage in this matchup.