New York Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson heard the criticism last season and decided to do something about it, and we're not only talking about deleting his social media account. After a 2022-23 season where he fell short of unfair and lofty expectations in the minds of some, Dobson has earned admiration from some of his staunchest critics. The 24-year-old has done so by maturing into a two-way defenseman who can be trusted to log heavy minutes and run the powerplay.
Through 23 games this season, Dobson has five goals and a team-leading 16 assists (tied with Mathew Barzal), which has him second on the team with 21 points as he's on track for the first 60-point season of his career, a rare feat for an Islanders defenseman. Perhaps what's even more impressive is that he's averaging 25:09 TOI per game, the sixth-highest in the league. Lane Lambert needed someone to step up and play more minutes after injuries first to Scott Mayfield and then Adam Pelech and Dobson has done so more than anyone else.
It's for these reasons, among others, that Dobson was ranked in the Top 10 for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the league's most valuable player, by The Athletic, in their first edition of "NHL Awards Watch" this season, which also had him ranked fourth for the Norris Trophy, the honor that goes to the best defenseman in the NHL.
The rankings are based on each player's "Net Rating" which is a combination of a skater's Offensive and Defensive rating. The criteria is a weighted combination of their contributions (goals, assists, expected goals, blocks, penalty differential) and their play-driving (on-ice expected and actual goal stats). Dobson has a score of +3.6 offensively and 1.6 defensively for a total of 5.2, ranking him eighth among skaters. Two other defensemen, Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes, are currently tops using that scoring system.
It wasn't too long ago here there was concern that Dobson could never run an efficient powerplay after the team scored the fewest goals in the league with the man advantage last season. However, he's shown increased puck-moving ability to go along with his propensity for getting shots on net, which has been a major driver in the Islanders being ranked a more than respectable 9th (23.4%) on the powerplay this season. Given the team's struggles on the penalty kill and their ongoing issues with finishing chances at even strength, the powerplay has saved their season to this point.
There will be those that scoff at the notion that Dobson is among the Top 10 most valuable players in the league - and that's more than fair to debate or even dismiss the rankings to an extent. However, it would be hard to argue that there has been any player more valuable to the team's success this season than Dobson, who is turning into the All-Star level defenseman the organization has longed believed he could become.