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Editorials

Islanders: Making the case for Noah Dobson to play 20+ minutes a night

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 18: Noah Dobson #8 of the New York Islanders stickhandles the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period in Game Two of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 18, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 18: Noah Dobson #8 of the New York Islanders stickhandles the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period in Game Two of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 18, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
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Noah Dobson is approaching year three of his NHL career. In his first two years with the New York Islanders, head coach Barry Trotz has opted to shelter the young defenseman.

In year one he played 34 games and averaged 13:17 of ice time. The number of games played would have been much less if Adam Pelech hadn’t been injured. Dobson probably would have surely found himself with a two-week conditioning stint in the AHL that year if not for Pelech’s injury.

Last year – year two – Dobson played 46 games (82% of the schedule) and averaged 16:24 of ice time. It was a step up, but the training wheels were still on. This year, they have to come off.

New York Islanders should take training wheels off Noah Dobson

As it stands the Islanders are a short a defenseman with Nick Leddy going to Detroit and no replacement yet found. As I’m sure you’re aware, that’s quite a gap on the blueline.

Sure, the Islanders still have Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield, and Andy Greene. But those last two names are role players on the team that rarely see 20+ minutes of ice time.

(Mayfield nearly hit 20 minutes in 19-20 when Pelech missed a ton of time due to that aforementioned injury.)

And look, with Leddy gone, there’s 20+ minutes on the blueline up for grabs. Leddy averaged 21:35 last season, the only skater with more ice time was Ryan Pulock with 22:27. Pelech was a close third with 21:03.

I’m sure Pulock and Pelech could eat a few of those minutes. Noah Dobson also has to chew a bunch of those minutes.

Barry Trotz will have the last say on if Dobson is ready for more. I feel like he is.

With his 16:24 of ice time last year, at 5on5 he finished with a 49.39 CF% (third for D) and a 49.73 xGF% (also third for D). Meaning at even strength, Dobson outperforms most of his fellow Islanders d-men in terms of shot share and at generating chances. The only two he doesn’t outperform are – you probably guess them – Pulock and Pelech.

(CF% and xGF% from NaturalStatTrick.)

Dobson isn’t the perfect replacement for Leddy of course. Very few defensemen in the NHL have the same transition stats that Leddy does. Only four defensemen in the entire league carried the puck into the offensive zone more frequently than Nick Leddy’s 56%.

But then again, carry-in rates are descriptive stats not predictive. Meaning Dobson could very well put up the same carry-in rates if given the chance. And look, when it comes to puck-moving, Dobson had the most controlled zone exits on the team per 60 with 11.75. Ryan Pulock was next with 8.74.

Of course, Dobson had the highest fail rate (6.090 failed exits/60). But he can learn how to improve that even if just slightly. Keep in mind guys like Thomas Chabot and Quinn Hughes had 5.363 and 5.383 failed exits/60 respectively. So it’s not as though Dobson is terrible.

Dobson can start taking some of the offensive workload that is now on the table with Leddy gone. Dobson was right behind Leddy for primary shot assists/60 last season with 6.15 to Leddy’s 6.71.

(Carry-in rate, primary shot assists/60, controlled exits, and failed exits from Corey Sznajder).

Again, Barry Trotz will ultimately decide if Dobson is ready, but it seems that he’s ready to step out from the shelter Trotz has set up for him and take his first steps in a top-four role.

Of course, this could change if Lou Lamoriello decides to bring in a more established puck-mover through a trade. But as it stands now, that move hasn’t been made and may never be made. Lou could just as easily bring in a more defensive defenseman to play on the second pair, which just heightens the need for Dobson to step into that top-four role.

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