Noah Dobson isn't the only NY Islanders defenseman that is much improved this season

The 'most improved player' accolade is not just subject to Noah Dobson.

2024 Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series - New York Rangers v New York Islanders
2024 Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series - New York Rangers v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

As NFL Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells once said, "You are what your record says you are."

In the case of the New York Islanders, they have lost 32 games between regulation and overtime. Their record tells us as fans that the team has had plenty of individual down performances. Part of this is the decline of veteran players like Anders Lee and J.G. Pageau as they enter the ladder years of their careers. Much of this is also due to poor roster construction in the offseason, such as Pierre Engvall not meeting expectations on the Isles' second line.

Even though the team finds themselves placed 5th in the Metropolitan Division, some of their players have shown improvements in 2023-24. Most of the improvements have been subject to the younger talent, which gives the organization hope in having building blocks for the future. Notably, Mathew Barzal earned a trip to Toronto to represent the Islanders at the all-star game while Noah Dobson was the NHL's biggest all-star snub. In hindsight, we could have predicted the breakout of these two young stars, but one player has gone unnoticed as the most improved player on the team.

Alexander Romanov has taken major strides this season

Dobson's success in 2023-24 cannot just be minimalized to his individual performance. He has also been an integral factor in the development of his linemate, Alexander Romanov.

Through 54 games this season, Romanov has already set a career-high in goals with 6 and a career-low in penalty minutes with 14. He has 85 shots on goal and has averaged 22:11 in time on ice. Romanov is also among the league leaders in blocked shots with 112, all of which are on pace to become career highs as well.

Playing on the same line as Dobson has opened up Romanov's offensive game. While he only has 8 assists, Romanov has shown precise puck protection in the offensive zone. His defensive game has also enhanced to where he has become more than just a great forechecker. Romanov has demonstrated on multiple occasions to break up odd-man rushes without taking a penalty. The 24-year-old is fearless in protecting his goaltender as his strongest suit is protecting the puck from getting to the crease.

The only part of Romanov's game that has declined this season is his forecheck. Under Lane Lambert, the Islanders wanted their defenseman to focus more on offense, which turned out to be counterproductive since every player possesses different strengths. For Romanov, this resulted in losing the strongest edge to his game, which is being an aggressive forechecker on the blue line and in the corners.

This statistic figures to change with Patrick Roy becoming head coach. Currently, Romanov is on pace for a career-low in hits with only 88 this season. Roy has made it no secret he wants the defenseman forechecking well before the puck reaches the blue line. The '2-on-1' defensive system Roy is preaching will be a breath of fresh air for the young defenseman as he continues to develop. If Romanov can keep his offensive game while rediscovering his aggressive fortitude on defense, he can become an elite defenseman with the counsel of Roy behind the bench.