Where should the expectations for Noah Dobson be right now?
Well, they're still very high for GM Lou Lamoriellio, even if he disagrees with the criticism that comes with those expectations for his young defenseman.
After scoring 13 goals and 38 assists in a breakout 2021-22 season, Dobson signed a 3-year, $12M contract extension before last season. At the time, there was discussion as to whether Lamoriello would elect to sign the then 22-year-old to a long-term extension rather than the bridge deal that makes him an RFA when he's 25.
"Where we feel Noah is at right now, to make that decision, you know, from his group's point of view, we have to see more with Noah," said Lamoriello after the deal was announced.
Expectations were sky-high amongst a segment of the fanbase for Dobson heading into the 2022-23 season with hopes that he would further mature into a top-pair defenseman. While Dobson put up similar offensive numbers (13G, 36A in 78 games), he failed to take strides defensively, which led to criticism and concern about how he projects moving forward.
"Too much criticism has been of Dobson," Lamoriello said at Tuesday afternoon's press conference. "Look at his point production, very similar to last year, and I think we put a lot of high expectations on him. People look at him; give him more attention."
Perhaps some of the criticism is unfair. Dobson had fewer giveaways last season and had more takeaways while increasing his overall shot total to a career-best 206. That's an improvement in three key areas of his game. However, he seemed to still lack the positioning, situational awareness, and physicality needed to be trusted late in games against opposing top lines.
Although Lamoriello wanted to see more for Dobson before handing out a long-term extension, nothing he saw last season made him think he won't be worth it when that time comes. In fact, during Tuesday's press conference, he raised expectations even further than they were a year ago.
"I spent some time with him, as recently as today. He's in a great mindset, knows what he needs to do to get better, and will do that," stated Lamoriello. "I have high expectations for him. I think he's going to be one of your elite scoring defensemen in this league before his career is over."