New York Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson will be entering his fifth NHL season next year, which is long enough sometimes to forget that he is still just 23 years old and developing as an NHL defenseman. But for many years, this season was a step sideways, if not a step back, for Dobson, as the parts of his defensive game that needed to show growth didn't develop quite enough.
During his 13-goal and 38 assists season in 2021-22, Dobson was a bright spot, showing an offensive skillset that took him from a talented prospect to a budding star in the eyes of many fans. To put his 2021-22 campaign in perspective, he became only the 4th Islanders defenseman to have ten goals and 30 assists at age 22 or younger, joining Denis Potvin (3 times), Tomas Jonsson (1982-83), and Bryan Berard (1997-98). Nick Leddy was the only other of any age to do so in the last 12 years. There was plenty to be excited about moving forward.
But the poor decision-making and instincts in the defensive zone that were evident but mostly dismissed during the previous year due to his breakout offensive season were still present this last season. Even with consistent power play time, his overall TOI dipped to 20:23 this season after logging 21:28 the prior year. He was a frustrating player to watch, given expectations that his game would mature defensively. We just didn't see it consistently enough.
"There's ebbs and flows [to the season]. but I'm excited for where I am, and I'm excited that I still have to grow to get better as a player. That's exciting for me to just continue to work on my game."- Noah Dobson to the media on Monday
The other area where Dobson received criticism was on the power play. As the quarterback of the unit, he carried the burden of trying to get a unit that grossly underachieved back on track, and instead, it got worse as the season went on, and those struggles carried into the postseason, where they were 1-for-18 against the Carolina Hurricanes.
"For sure, we all do, said Dobson to the media when asked if he took the lack of success on the power play personally. "We all have pride, and we all know what we're capable of, what we need to do. Poweplays are important. When things don't go well, that can weigh on you as well as it snowballs and doesn't keep getting better; it's tough."
By his own omission, Dobson said he has "a lot of things" to work on this summer to come to camp a better player than what he ended the season. He didn't offer any specifics when asked what he wants to focus on, just that as a young player, he has a lot of areas where he can grow, but as this season demonstrated, some areas need more work than others.