Noah Dobson had a good start to his NHL career with the New York Islanders. But making the leap to a top-pair defenseman isn’t in the cards in year two.
In 2019-20 Noah Dobson made the leap from juniors to the NHL with the New York Islanders. Rather than keep him in the QMJHL where he won back-to-back league trophies and the CHL’s Memorial Cup, the Isles brought him up to the pros.
Of the Islanders 68 games so far in the 2019-20 season, the 12th overall pick at the 2019 draft played 34 games. For most of the season, Dobson was used sparingly by the Isles, but when Adam Pelech went down with a season-ending injury, Dobson was tossed into the lineup full-time (until Andy Greene was acquired before the deadline).
At 19-years-old (he turned 20 in January) Dobson was always going to make mistakes or have an embarrassing moment or two. Like when he got nutmegged by Kasperi Kapanen. But for large parts, Dobson played pretty well and showed he belonged in the NHL.
Who knows what’ll happen for him in 2020-21. He’s old enough to play in the AHL now. Perhaps the Islanders send him down there to play full-time in 2020-21 if they don’t have space for him in the NHL on a full-time basis.
But what’s clear is that he won’t make the leap to a top-pair role just yet.
It’s Pulock’s Role
With an impending cap crunch for the Isles coupled with a flat cap in 2020-21 (and maybe beyond), there’s going to be a need for creativity to keep the Isles cap complaint.
Trading pending RFA Ryan Pulock is certainly a creative solution but the only way that works is if Dobson is ready to immediately step into Pulock’s spot as the number one right shot blue-liner. Dobson isn’t ready yet.
Not only is Dobson not at that point in his development in my opinion, but the Islanders also aren’t likely to give him that role so quickly.
If you want to catch a glimpse into Barry Trotz’s plan (and by extension Lou Lamoriello) on developing defensemen just look at what Barry has done with some of the players he’s developed in his coaching career.
*Split time between AHL and NHL
^Spent entire season in AHL
Note: Year 1 means the player’s first year of professional hockey.
Following that development chart, Noah Dobson isn’t going to be ready for top pair minutes (ie: 20+ minutes on average) under Barry Trotz until at least year three. Bumping Dobson to the top pair after a 34 game sample in year one would be uncharacteristically hasty for Trotz and Lamoriello.
Noah Dobson will get there. He seems to have all the talent to become that first tier defenseman in the NHL. But forcing him into that role isn’t going to help him get there. Barry Trotz knows that.
Another year learning his craft in a low-stress role where he can be sheltered, like on the third pair next to a solid vet who can teach him the ropes and mentor him seems like the next for Dobson. Or play top-pair minutes in the AHL with the Sound Tigers.
Dobson’d time will come. It’s just not here yet.
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I like the creative thinking in trading Ryan Pulock to lessen the Islanders cap issues while likey bringing in a scoring winger, but the gap Pulock would leave for Dobson to fill would be cavernous.