Often when a team trades away top-four defensemen, they will have a tough time replacing him. For the New York Islanders, that has hardly been the case as Noah Dobson has emerged not just into the starting role, but one of the most promising defensemen in the MassMutual East Division. With the Islanders needing to create cap room to bring back Mat Barzal, general manager Lou Lamoriello dealt Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche. Despite the young defender suffering an injury, he has played well, but Dobson could have found himself in the press box more often than being on the ice if not for this trade. Johnny Boychuk was under contract for this upcoming season before he was forced to retire and Andy Greene seemed destined to ink a new deal after coming over in a trade last year.
Dobson played in 21 games during the 2019-20 shortened season. He also appeared in one playoff game, and while at times he looked like a former first-round pick, it was hard for him to get consistent playing time. Dobson has had the opportunity to play with Greene, as the two do a terrific job together. Dobson is a great skater that likes to join in on the rush, while Greene tends to be a stay-at-home defenseman.
This has benefited Dobson as he has been able to show off his offensive game. He currently has a pair of goals and 11 points. Even more impressive for the young defender, he is a plus-8 and has 44 shots on goal through 26 games. Early in the season, head coach Barry Trotz really let his rookie get plenty of ice time. In four of his first seven games, Dobson received over 20 minutes of ice after only eclipsing that mark once during his first season in the NHL.
Perhaps the most surprising part of Dobson’s season has been his impact on the power play. He started off the season playing with Ryan Pulock on the man-advantage. The Islanders struggled to start the year, but after a break in their schedule at the start of February, Dobson helped the Islanders go through a stretch of nine goals in 22 chances.
New York has only had their power play finish over 20% one time since 1994-95, and through nearly half a season, the Islanders rank 13h in the league at 23.5%. Similar to last year, New York is in the bottom third of the league in chances but has used Dobson’s play-making ability at the point to set up players like Mat Barzal, Jordan Eberle, and Anders Lee. Dobson registered one of his power-play goals there and has four points on special teams as he has replaced Toews. Trotz has also shifted him to the second power-play group, which features the player selected one spot ahead of him in the NHL draft in Oliver Wahlstrom.
There is still plenty of room for Dobson to improve on. As the Islanders currently sit in first place in the East Division, he should more than likely get a chance to see big minutes in the playoffs. If he can continue to develop his offensive game, Dobson has a chance to top defensemen in the league for a long time. The Islanders have dressed the same six defensemen in all 26 games this year and have seen them all produce. For a player than never appeared in the AHL, Dobson plays well beyond his age and can follow in the footsteps of some of the great Islander defensemen.
Matt Rothman is a 2018 graduate from Florida Gulf Coast University receiving his bachelor degree in journalism. Originally from Long Island, he moved to Parkland shortly after high school. Matt worked as the assistant sports editor for his school paper, eaglenews.com in college becoming just one of nine students in his graduation class to serve over 1,000 community service hours. His goal is to travel to every Major League Baseball stadium, and has been to multiple US Open finals.