Noah Dobson’s ‘confidence’ name of impressive evolution game for Islanders

Noah Dobson Islanders
Jan 1, 2022; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson (8) reacts after scoring the winning goal during the overtime period against the Edmonton Oilers at UBS Arena.
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The ceiling was always going to be high for young New York Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson. 

The first-round pick (No. 12 overall) was considered one of the steals of the 2018 draft that saw the Islanders come away with him and Oliver Wahlstrom (11th) in back-to-back picks. 

As an 18-year-old, he did the unthinkable of breaking through the ranks — more out of necessity because he would have been stuck in juniors for another year — to get minutes on a Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz-led team that is always hesitant to play youngsters. 

With an arsenal of two-way capabilities, Dobson saw playoff minutes as a 20-year-old while gradually and carefully being brought along by Trotz. He still plays with veteran defensemen — first working with 38-year-old Andy Greene and now skating alongside 44-year-old Zdeno Chara — to seep up as much knowledge as he possibly can. 

All the while, his ice time has increased; 13 minutes per game in 2019-20, 16 minutes per game in 2021, and now 20:23 per game. 

And it’s been desperately needed. 

The Islanders lost their best puck-moving defenseman in Nick Leddy via trade during the offseason. Ryan Pulock has been out since mid-November due to an injury. 

For a team ravaged by COVID and injuries, a non-existent offense had to have some sort of production from its blue line — especially when that attack was widely contained to the perimeter.

After an 11-game losing streak that spanned from November to December, Dobson has upped his game and has answered the call. 

Over his last 10 games, the blueliner that turns 22 on Friday has posted 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) while averaging 22:36 of ice time. Four of those points have come on a power play that has been red-hot as of late thanks to his quarterbacking — converting on 9-of-its-last-26 (34.6%) man-advantage opportunities after posting a measly 10.2% conversion rate over their first 18 games of the season.

He’s been a direct catalyst of the Islanders’ recent run of form that featured points in nine of their last 11 games.

[READ: Islanders optimism increasing as lineup finally nears full strength]

“He’s been playing great lately,” fellow defenseman Adam Pelech said. “He’s obviously a super-talented player. We’ve known that since the first time I saw him play. It’s really all coming together for him.”

What has been the catalyst for the evolution in his play? Confidence.

“He’s playing with a lot more confidence. I think that’s huge for anyone who plays this game or any athlete,” Chara, a future Hall of Famer, said of his partner in Dobson who is half his age. “Confidence has a lot to do with your success and you can see it in his game that he’s making some plays, being there for us at crucial times. His hockey sense, his skating ability, and he’s playing really well right now.”

It was none more apparent than in the Islanders’ 3-2 victory on New Year’s Day over the Edmonton Oilers when Dobson, in overtime, took a pass from Mathew Barzal at center ice and rumbled his way into the opposing zone, meandering between the dots before ripping a pinpoint wrist shot to lift the New York to victory. 

That wasn’t the kind of Noah Dobson one would see just a few months ago. This is one who appears — get this — more confident in his abilities to lead the Islanders’ blue line.

“I think he’s just playing with a lot more confidence. It’s progressed from Day 1,” associate head coach Lane Lambert added. “He’s skating, he’s moving the puck, he’s transporting the puck. I think it’s just because of his confidence level. He’s always had that in him but I think mentally, he’s taken it to the next level.”

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