ONLY IN AMNEWYORK
ELMONT, N.Y. — New York Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson continues to produce at the type of torrid pace that hasn’t been seen around this organization for decades. Not since the days of Denis Potvin.
In his first 50 games this season, the 23-year-old blueliner has 52 points — six goals and 46 assists — which has him on a pace to post the most points by a defenseman not named Potvin in Islanders franchise history.
It’s also putting him firmly in the conversation of something else that only Potvin has achieved with the franchise: The Norris Trophy.
Dobson’s name continues to pop up as a legitimate candidate to be one of the final three finalists for the award, given annually to the NHL’s best defenseman. Potvin is the only Islander to win the award having done so three times in 1976, 1978, and 1979.
“I think it just means I’m having a good season,” Dobson told amNewYork. “Coming into this year, I knew there was another level that I wanted to get to and felt ready to get to. I feel like I’ve been able to take strides in a lot of areas that has helped my game a lot.
“For me, it means I’m doing something right to be in those conversations. But it doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. Some might pay attention to it, but for me, I have to be on top of my game to help this team try to win each night. That’s my main focus right now.”
Entering Thursday night’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Dobson’s 52 points ranks third amongst NHL defensemen this year, only behind Quinn Hughes (64) of the Vancouver Canucks and Cale Makar (60) of the Colorado Avalanche — both of whom seem like foregone conclusions to be finalists for the Norris.
Dobson’s teammates certainly believe that he should be the third man in that finalist category should his production continue at this pace.
“Absolutely [he deserves to be in consideration],” Mathew Barzal, who has had Dobson feature on 26 of the 52 instances in which he’s recorded a point this season, said. “What he’s able to do on the ice, his skillset, it’s so much fun to play with someone like that.”
What is putting Dobson in this upper echelon, though, is the ability to consistently produce under heavier workloads and within a system — at least before the firing of Lane Lambert in late January — that didn’t allow defensemen to express their offensive game.
His 1,296 minutes are the most in the NHL with three games of 30-plus minutes. He’s one of just two players (Brock Faber, Minnesota Wild) in the NHL this season with more than one game of 30 or more minutes of ice time.
Some of that has come out of necessity. The Islanders have been rife with injuries that featured the long-term absences of Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, and Scott Mayfield.
“100% [he should be considered]. Look at his numbers,” Pulock said. “Look at what he’s done in the last two months with us being a little banged up and him playing 30 minutes a night on back-to-backs and doing a good job of it. You look at both ends of the ice, he’s done it all.”
When it comes to producing on both the offensive and defensive side, Dobson’s resume is more complete.
His 46 hits are double the amount of Makar’s and nearly triple Hughes’ 16. He also has 119 shots blocked, which is well ahead of Makar’s 86 and Hughes’ 35.
A natural power-play quarterback, Dobson has also assumed penalty-killing responsibilities this season — the first time in his career that he’s doing so on a consistent basis. He’s averaging 1:23 of shorthanded ice time per game with a Corsi For % (CF%) of 3.1. Makar, whose CF% is 3.0 is at 2:37 while Hughes is at 47 seconds.
The resume suggests that Dobson is on the precipice of breaking quite a lengthy drought. No Islander other than Potvin has been a finalist for the Norris Trophy. Only Adrian Aucoin (2002, 2004) and Mark Streit (2009, 2010) are the other defensemen in franchise history to finish in the top 10 of the voting.
Dobson is well on his way to being added to that list.
“I think it’s something he’s earned and deserved,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “You just don’t get thrown into that conversation for no reason. He’s put a lot of work and growth into his game and he’s absolutely working his way up to those types of acknowledgements.
“I’m very happy for him and proud of him. I think he should be proud of what he’s done and the way he’s played.”
For more on the Islanders and Noah Dobson, visit AMNY.com