Noah Dobson will be on the cusp of his 21st birthday if the NHL season does, in fact, start on New Year’s Day.
He’ll also be a mainstay within the New York Islanders’ resolute defensive unit — if things go according to general manager Lou Lamoriello’s plan.
The Islanders were forced to make the shrewd move of trading away 26-year-old defenseman Devon Toews, once considered not too long ago to be the next big thing on New York’s blue line, to the Colorado Avalanche for a second-round draft pick in 2021 and 2022.
Toews, a restricted free agent this offseason, would have called for a sizable enough payday that would have put further strain on an Islanders team that needs to make several more pressing moves with significantly tight cap space to work with.
That includes re-signing fellow restricted free agents Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock, along with trying to acquire a first-line winger that can add a top-tier scoring punch that is expected to put the Islanders over the top.
Trading Toews is perceived as the first domino to clear the necessary space to get those moves done. Speculation continues to grow that the Islanders will bundle one or both of those draft picks from Colorado and bundle them with a big contract — like that of Johnny Boychuk’s or Andrew Ladd’s — to find more cap relief.
Dobson is thrust into the spotlight now with Toews off the depth chart and he already appears to have the full confidence of Lamoriello.
“We would not have made this move if the ice time that Devon received, we didn’t have the ability to put a player into that,” Lamoriello said. “And Noah Dobson, we feel, is certainly ready to take the next step so we’ll have to just wait and see.”
The 6-foot-3, 179-pound blueliner appeared in 34 regular-season games, potting a goal and six assists as a 20-year-old, showing a mature, reserved style of two-way hockey within the Islanders’ system.
He would likely start his full-time foray into the NHL as a third-pairing defenseman, working alongside the veteran Andy Greene should he re-sign with the team.
The 37-year-old who was acquired from the New Jersey Devils at the trade deadline teamed up with Dobson to create the unlikeliest pair that received plenty of praise from head coach Barry Trotz, calling them “as good as any pair we’ve had,” during Phase 3 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan over the summer.
Lamoriello said on Monday that there was “a strong chance” that Greene would re-sign with the team this offseason.