Have you ever heard of the "helper's high?" It's the belief that giving to others releases chemicals and produces endorphins that boost your physical and mental health. For most of us, that happens most around the holidays and if you just celebrated Christmas, your living rooms are probably littered with wrapping paper, decorative bows and empty boxes proving as much.
New York Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson has been feeling that "helper's high" all year on the ice in a way that few Isles defensemen have throughout franchise history. Through 33 games, Dobson has assisted on 29 goals, the ninth-highest assist total in the league and third-highest amongst defensemen, trailing Vancouver's Quinn Hughes (34) and Colorado's Cale Makar (31).
The Islanders have three more games before the calendar flips to 2024, ending the calendar year with five straight games against teams in the Metro Division. They host the underachieving Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, the surprising Washington Capitals on Friday, and close out the year in Pittsburgh on New Year's Eve.
With those three games remaining, Dobson has already collected 51 assists during the 2023 calendar year. Per statistician Eric Hornick, among Isles defensemen, only Denis Potvin (10x with a high 68 in 1978) and Stefan Persson (61 in 1978) have had more in a calendar year.
Last season, Dobson finished with 36 assists in 78 games, 102nd in the league. The previous year, he ranked 73rd with 38 assists in 80 games. Both years were viewed as breakout offensive performances for the 23-year-old, which puts this year's production into perspective.
Dobson has been giving the Islanders everything they could have imagined, and they keep asking for and needing more. In the prolonged absence of both Adam Pelech and then Ryan Pulock, Dobson has continued to make strides, logging more than 25 minutes a game in 15 straight games and helping the Islanders not only stay afloat but thrive without Pelech, posting a record of 9-2-4 since he was lost with a wrist injury.
Dobson's turnaround as quarterback of the sixth-best power-play in the league is a big reason why his assist numbers have skyrocketed into the top-10 in the league and part of the reason he is making a case to be in the Norris Trophy conversation this season with even bigger numbers for the calendar year of 2024 a possibility.