The 5 biggest surprises in the first half of the NY Islanders season

Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders
Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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Noah Dobson has been elite

Noah Dobson has been the team's most valuable player.

Heading into last season, fans were looking for Dobson's game to mature and round itself out to the next level, and much of that was focused on his play in the defensive zone. That's where meaningful steps were needed, as he had put together back-to-back seasons showing he could be a 50 or even potentially 60-point scoring defenseman.

What's happened is that Dobson has exceeded expectations on both sides of the ice and by a wide margin. He's excelled as the quarterback of the power play, and after his four-point night on Thursday has six goals and 36 assists on the season and is on pace to become the first Islanders defenseman since Denis Potvin to average at least one point per game in a season

Dec 23, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson (8) checks
Dec 23, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson (8) checks / James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

With injuries to Pelech, Pulock, and Mayfield depleting the blue line, Dobson had to step up his defensive game, play in more situations, and even contribute regularly to the penalty kill. The result is that he is now averaging 25:51 TOI per game, second highest in the league, and had a streak of 21 consecutive games of playing 25 minutes or more.

He may not end up an All-Star this season, but he's in the Norris Trophy conversation and setting himself up for a massive payday as he heads into the final season of his three-year bridge contract next season. The Isles wouldn't be close to where they are without his development accelerating as much as it has this season, making him a top-pair defenseman and an elite offensive one.