Islanders Defenseman Noah Dobson Continues To Learn On The Job

Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire

To say that Noah Dobson had a rough Saturday evening at Madison Square Garden would be an understatement.  He certainly struggled in the Islanders’ 5-0 loss to the Rangers with a minus two rating and a turnover that led to a Rangers goal.

There’s no other way to sum it up other than to say it was a bad night all around for the Islanders young blueliner.

“I’d be the first one to tell you that I didn’t have my greatest game on Saturday,” said Dobson.  “It’s part of the learning process.  If you turn the puck over, they’re going to capitalize on you so I think it’s just something you learn from.”

For Dobson, things have certainly been accelerated for him this year as he is a top six defenseman for the Islanders after the off-season trade that sent Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche in a move that was needed to create salary cap space.  The Islanders felt they could afford to deal Toews because they were confident that Dobson, a first-round pick (12th overall) in 2018, was ready to step in and be a regular.

Two days after a tough night on Broadway, Dobson bounced back in a big way on Monday with a solid game in the Islanders’ 1-0 win over the Boston Bruins at Nassau Coliseum.

“He wasn’t very good against the Rangers,” said Head Coach Barry Trotz.  “I thought he had an off night.  It just didn’t go his way but I thought (Monday) he responded very well.  That’s what you want to see in a young guy and we saw that (Monday).”

Dobson certainly took what happened on Saturday as motivation and turned the page to get things straightened out against Boston and now looks to continue that improvement as the Islanders get set to host the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.

“I think the main thing is how you respond and I was happy with how I responded (Monday),” said Dobson.  “I played a better game and learned from the mistakes I made on Saturday.”

The Islanders Had A Plan For Noah Dobson:

Dobson made the Islanders out of training camp last season and played in 34 games during his rookie season scoring one goal to go along with six assists for seven points.  The Islanders did not have the option of sending Dobson to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League because he was too young but they could have sent him back to his junior team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.  The Islanders decided that it would be best for Dobson to be in the NHL event if he wasn’t going to be a regular.

The 6’4” 195-pound right-handed shot and native of Summerside, Prince Edward Island in Canada certainly had the tools to be in the National Hockey League, but there was some work to do in terms of his development before he could be a regular.

NEWARK, NJ – JANUARY 07: New York Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson (8) skates during the National Hockey Leage game between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders on January 7, 2020 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

“Some guys can translate very quickly,” said Trotz.   “And some guys have the hockey IQ and they might have the skill but maybe don’t have the physical attributes that allow them to feel confident or to be confident because of the strength of their opposition.  In Dobber’s case, we always knew he had the skill and the hockey IQ.  He knew that he did need an opportunity to build his body up.”

There’s a big different between junior hockey and the NHL and the reality of that can be humbling to a young player.

Dobson, a QMJHL All-Star in 2018 and 2019, totaled 15 goals and 37 assists for 52 points over 56 combined games with both Acadie-Bathurst and Rouyn-Noranda during his final junior season in 2018-19.   When you’re that good of a player in juniors, one might fall into some questionable habits when you’re seemingly a man among boys.

But what worked in the juniors doesn’t necessarily equate to success when you’re going up against the best players in the world.

“You can get away with stuff that you can’t in the National Hockey League,” said Trotz.

Noah Dobson Put In The Work And Showed Patience Before Being A Regular With The Islanders: 

Last season was certainly an eye-opening experience for Dobson who was used to playing in every game at the junior level, but with the Islanders, his ice-time was limited.  He played in his 34th and final regular season game on March 11th when the Islanders lost to the Canucks in a shootout 5-4 in Vancouver.  That was also the Islanders’ final regular season game because the NHL season would be paused because of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.  When the NHL returned to play over the summer for the post-season, Dobson was with the team in the bubble but did not play in a game until he made his NHL playoff debut in game six of the Eastern Conference Final, a 2-1 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning that brought the Islanders’ season to an end.

The Islanders felt that they had the right plan in place for Dobson last season and while he wasn’t happy not being a regular like he was in juniors, he now understands that it was the right thing to do.

TORONTO, ON – JANUARY 04: New York Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson (8) skates with the puck during the first period in a game between the New York Islanders and the Toronto Maple Leafs on January 04, 2020, at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario Canada.(Photo by Nick Turchiaro/Icon Sportswire)

“Not playing isn’t fun,” said Dobson.  “You always want to be playing.  Looking back on it, I feel like it was probably going to be the best thing for me moving forward just coming along slow, learning from the older guys and getting into games.  Getting into the game in the playoffs in the conference final I thought was really huge for my confidence just going forward.  Looking back at it, it wasn’t fun at the time but in the long road I think it’s going to be the best thing for me.”

Dobson reported for the Islanders’ abbreviated training camp after gaining some valuable experience during his rookie season and also being around the team during the playoff run.  During camp and through the first three games of the season, even with the down night against the Rangers Saturday, Dobson has shown that he is miles ahead of where he was last season and deserving of the opportunity to be a top-six defenseman.

“The biggest thing is just confidence and comfort level,” said Dobson.  “I have a lot more confidence with the puck and trying to make plays.  Just going through what I did last year and understanding how you have to play at this level to have success is part of the development.”

Not only is his confidence higher than it was last season, but he has also gained the trust of the coaching staff and the players.

“You can see it out there,” said Islanders forward Casey Cizikas.  “The way he’s handing the puck, the way he’s getting up in the play and the way he’s quarterbacking the power play.  He’s got a different stride this year and he’s playing good.   He’s making plays.  He’s doing the smart things.  He’s being mean in the (defensive) zone”.

The Islanders Provided Noah Dobson With A Great Support System: 

Since joining the Islanders last season, Dobson has been fortunate to some terrific people around him.  He’s been living with former Islanders defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and his family.  Dobson was fortunate to have defenseman Johnny Boychuck, currently on long term injured reserve with a career-ending eye injury, as a mentor last season on the ice, in the locker room, and then in the bubble.  This season, Dobson has been learning a lot from veteran defenseman Andy Greene who the Islanders brought back after acquiring him from the New Jersey Devils last season.

April 30, 2016: Johnny Boychuck (55) of the New York Islanders clears the puck before Ryan Callahan (24) of the Tampa Bay Lightning can finish his check during the second game of the 2016 second round NHL Eastern Conference playoff game between the New York Islanders and the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. (Photograph by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire)
UNIONDALE, NY – JANUARY 18: New York Islanders Defenceman Andy Greene (4) warms up prior to the start of the National Hockey League game between the Boston Bruins and the New York Islanders on January 19, 2021, at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

“It’s been great,” said Dobson.  “I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of great veteran presences.  Last year with JB, living with the Seidenbergs and this year playing with Greener.  He’s been really great for me.  He’s a savvy veteran guy who has been in the league for a while.  He’s seen everything so he’s a great guy for a young guy like me.”

“We tried to surround him with good mentors,” said Trotz.  “You can’t think of three better people in this game that you could learn from.

He’s getting a really good tutoring from people who have played in the league.”

Last season, Noah Dobson showed glimpses of what he could bring to the Islanders’ blueline and then the team trusted him to fill in for the injured Adam Pelech for game six of the Eastern Conference Final.  This season, Dobson is a regular having gone through a year of development according to the plan that the Islanders had for him.  He’s still learning on the fly and he’s doing a lot of things right.  But he’s already also shown the ability to bounce back from a bad night, turn the page, and move on to the next game.

He’s got all the tools to be successful and a support system dedicated to making sure that he is the best defenseman he can be.

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz is a contributor covering the Islanders for NY Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio, and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club.

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