Everything the Islanders did with Noah Dobson last season was to prepare him for this upcoming one.
The 20-year-old defenseman, in his second NHL season, is slated to take on a bigger role than ever before in wake of several changes to the Islanders’ back end. With Devon Toews shipped to the Avalanche and Johnny Boychuk’s impending long-term injured reserve designation, Dobson is seemingly next in line to step into one of the top-six defensive pairings.
“The plan with him was to try to get him into about 35-40 games last year, get him on a regimen, a more pro regimen,” head coach Barry Trotz said on a Zoom call Tuesday. “And the plan has worked, plain and simple. He’s been around pros for a year, he’s got a little bit of experience and he’s had time to get stronger as a young man, train properly and now he’s been practicing, playing some games. He’s grown. He’s ready to take on a real big piece of ice time this year.”
Dobson appeared in 34 games with the Islanders in 2019-20, scoring one goal and accumulating six assists. He then took a backseat during the Islanders’ run to the conference final and only played in the team’s final game against the Lightning after Adam Pelech was unavailable due to a broken wrist.
During the pre-playoff training camp over the summer, Dobson was impressive in a pairing with veteran Andy Greene. Trotz said Monday that the Dobson-Greene pairing could see some ice time.
Several Islanders have thought highly of Dobson since he was drafted 12th overall by the club in 2018, repeatedly saying they expect him to come into his own soon. Fellow defenseman Ryan Pulock said he has seen a confidence boost in Dobson, as well as development in his game.
Pelech believes the final step for Dobson will be “just becoming a pro and maturing.”
“He’s obviously a really talented player,” Pelech said. “We all knew that since he was drafted here and we’ve seen him in training camp. He didn’t play as much as I’m sure he would’ve liked to last season but I think that he still developed a ton. We’re all really looking forward to seeing his game continue to develop and we all think he can be a great player in this league.”
Mathew Barzal missed his third straight day of training camp Tuesday as his next contract continues to be hashed out.
Other absences included Austin Czarnik (undisclosed), Tom Kuhnhackl (on a professional tryout and coming off shoulder surgery), Simon Holmstrom (quarantine) and Thomas Hickey (undisclosed).