Noah Dobson utilizing lessons from Islanders’ vets ahead of expanded leadership role in 2023 playoffs

Noah Dobson Islanders
Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

EAST MEADOW — The script has been flipped somewhat quickly for New York Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson.

Over his first three seasons in the pros, the 23-year-old blue-chip prospect on the blueline was paired with a litany of veterans — whether that be Johnny Boychuk or Andy Greene, or Zdeno Chara — to ensure he was properly shown the ropes by some of the best the previous generation had to offer. 

The training wheels have come off this year as Dobson leads a defensive pair with the young Samuel Bolduc — a 22-year-old with just 17 games of NHL experience — into a first-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes as the Islanders await the return of Alexander Romanov.

“That just comes with having experience,” Dobson told amNewYork. “I’ve been fortunate. Any chance I get, I give credit to the guys I’ve been able to learn from over my first couple years: Boychuk, Chara, Greene. All those guys have been great mentors for me and my game.

“This year, with the personnel being different, you just try to take those things that you learn and take it into your game and I think as a D-core, we are all comfortable playing with one another now. We’ve been together for a while. So it’s been a good mix but I definitely keep the knowledge I’ve learned from those guys and take it with me for whatever comes with whatever comes about in different situations.”

Dobson originally began the year with fellow 23-year-old Romanov, who was acquired at the NHL Draft for a first-round pick in hopes of creating a long-term pairing to anchor New York’s blue line for the future.

But there had been growing pains. The Dobson and Romanov pair was split up multiple times throughout the season and only reunited again in February before the latter went down earlier this month. Their 15 goals against ranks fourth-most amongst 10 Islanders defensive pairs that played at least 100 minutes together

Over 72 minutes with Bolduc this season, Dobson’s goals against per 60 minutes are at 1.67 compared to the 2.17 it was with Romanov as he continued to tighten up his defensive play when it mattered most. The Islanders went 19-9-4 down the stretch to snag the final available Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference in their final regular season game to 

“Throughout the season you have ebbs and flows but I think I’ve just tried to keep taking steps, especially defensively,” Dobson said. “I feel like the last couple of months, the games have been so tight that everything is magnified. I feel like I’ve done a good job with that.”

And while plus-minus is never an end-all-be-all indicator of individual success, Dobson posted a plus-9 rating over his final 30 games of the season after posting a minus-5 over the first 48.

“He’s evolved as the season’s gone on,” head coach Lane Lambert said. “I’ve really liked his game recently. It’s just a mindset. The mentality is that, as a younger player starts to gain age or experience, they gain that confidence and that mindset that they are now an integral piece.”

Noah Dobson (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press via AP)

Dobson is undoubtedly one of those integral pieces of an Islanders defense that faces a shorthanded Hurricanes attack in Round 1 that is without star scorer Andrei Svechnikov.

“When he first came in here, he was really mature for this age,” veteran defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “I think that experience of being here and playing with some of those really veteran guys, there’s things that you learn maybe if you don’t see it, but you’re learning as you go. I think he’s done a good job this year. He’s had some different pairings, we all have a little bit mixing it up, but I think he’s done a good job taking another step of understanding the game as a whole in different areas.

“That’s just part of it as you develop. He’s still only 23. He’s still a young player. And he’s still going to learn and continue to improve each year.”

The playoffs, as Dobson put it, are “another beast,” which obviously provides a heightened, more intense stage that can test any hockey player, let alone a younger one. But Dobson is one of just three Islanders defensemen in franchise history to play at least 20 playoff games before their 22nd birthday, playing in all 19 games in the 2021 playoffs that resulted in a run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup semifinals.

Pair that with the tightrope that the Islanders toed to end the season and there is little question that he’ll be ready to go.

“We’ve had those high-pressure must-win games under our belt,” Dobson said. “It’s going to go up another notch, I’d say, but it’s good playing really meaningful hockey the last little bit so it’s good to still be another step up. But it’s not going to be as big of a step if we were maybe clinched a few weeks ago so I think it’s good for the team.”

For more on Noah Dobson and the Islanders, visit AMNY.com