Despite having one of the oldest teams in the NHL, the New York Islanders have an exciting group of young players. Guys like Mat Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier and Oliver Wahlstrom, among others, are youthful building blocks that will play big parts in the near future. However, there is one other player who will be sure to have a big impact on this team: Noah Dobson.
The 22-year-old defenseman made his debut in the 2019-2020 season, notching one goal and six assists in 34 games. Since then, he has developed into a fine player who still has room to grow. Dobson, along with the other players I mentioned, makes up the strong, young core of this Islanders team. Where exactly is his ceiling, though? What kind of potential does he have and where could he end up in the future?
Dobson’s Story so Far
Dobson started his career in the Québec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. He played there for 2.5 seasons before being moved to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. In three seasons in the QMJHL, he registered 39 goals and 108 assists for 147 points. He was drafted 12th overall in the first round by the Islanders in the 2018 NHL Draft.
In his time so far with the Islanders, he has 14 goals and 45 assists for 59 points. On the defensive side, he has 215 blocks and 130 hits. This season has been his best by far, having played more games (he’s only missed two so far) and gotten more time on the ice. So far this season he has 10 goals, 28 assists, 125 blocks and 65 hits. Half of his assists have come on the power play. In fact, he leads the Isles in power-play points with 16. He has often featured on the second defensive line with Zdeno Chara and the primary power-play unit.
Isles’ Defensive Situation
Unfortunately, Dobson will have to wait a while before possibly changing lines. The Isles’ two primary defensemen, Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech, each both recently signed eight-year contract extensions. This gives the Isles’ some much-needed defensive stability for the near future and beyond.
Behind that, however, things aren’t as clear. Chara signed a one-year deal with the Isles and recently turned 45 years old–while he hasn’t made an announcement just yet, it seems that retirement is in the near future. Additionally, you have Andy Greene, another veteran who signed a one-year deal after being traded from the New Jersey Devils. Even though he might be a little further away from retirement, he is still up there in age.
Luckily, there are a number of young players that could pair well with Dobson. Sebastian Aho is one of the first names that comes to mind. He is 26 years old and is left-handed, meaning he could fit with the right-handed Dobson. Plus, he already has some NHL experience. Another option is Robin Salo, one of the Isles’ top prospects. He is 23 years old and also left-handed, being an all-around solid defender with experience abroad, in the AHL and in the NHL early this season.
If the Isles don’t go with either of those players, they could always move Greene up to Dobson’s line or play 33-year-old Thomas Hickey, another veteran of the game.
What is Dobson’s Ceiling?
Dobson is a 6’4″, 184-lb defender who is still quite young. Even though he could use a little more muscle weight, he is still built well for a defender (Pulock and Pelech are 6’2″ and 6’3″, respectively). Therefore, he already has what it takes to be a strong defender in the NHL–even though he might not be 6’9″ like his partner Chara.
Despite his strong profile and physicality, it’s difficult to see him break that first line with Pulock and Pelech extended for the long term. As a result, he will have to settle for the middle line. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing–he has still been able to contribute. Part of this is thanks to his placement on the first power-play unit. He has contributed positively on the power-play, netting 16 points so far this season. On the flip side, he has not been used on either penalty kill unit.
With all of that in mind, I think Dobson’s ceiling (at least on the Islanders) is a second-line defenseman who has a specialty on the power play and remains a useful option on that first power-play line. At this point in his career, he seems to be more of an offensive-minded defenseman than a defensive-minded one. In any case, he is a strong building block for the Islanders and will only continue to develop as he plays more. With his contract set to expire soon, it is imperative that the Isles extend his him and build toward a better, brighter future.