Noah Dobson is still learning.
The second-year defenseman was a mainstay on the Islanders back end this season. As the postseason has progressed, Dobson’s role has changed each game, but his confidence has not faltered.
“The biggest thing for me watching him is his confidence and growth as a player,” fellow Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy said Wednesday morning. “On and off the ice, he has some moments where he really shines.”
Prior to Game 6, Dobson’s seven playoff points led all Islanders defensemen and were seventh-best amongst all D-men. He has excelled on the power play too — he was sixth in the NHL with four postseason power-play assists as of Wednesday.
The 2018 first-round pick is showcasing strong skating, excellent poise for a young player and an efficient two-way game.
While his game has improved since he played 34 games in his rookie season in 2019-20, his ice-time is fluctuating. In the 2021 postseason, he had averaged 13:52 a night up until Game 6. However, in Game 4, Dobson only played 7:36 against a difficult Lightning team.
The playing time is down. Nonetheless, the trust is still there.
“I think what you’re seeing is players grow the most in the toughest times. We’ve had two tough series and [Dobson] is getting used to it,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said prior to the Eastern semifinal series. “He’s feeling comfortable with it.
“When you feel comfortable with it, usually you feel confident with it and that’s what you’re seeing. A good young player feeling confident about where his lot is against top people, against top teams and in the most demanding situation in the game today.”
And one quiet night won’t stop him. Dobson has perseverance in his blood.
On March 14, he took the ice in Newark to battle the Devils, when he was quickly pulled from the lineup due to a positive COVID-19 test. He missed eight games.
“It was definitely tough, especially mentally, just being by yourself, isolating and being away from the team,” Dobson said later that month after returning to the team. “I’m just grateful to be back healthy and back with the guys.”
It certainly has been a long journey for Dobson, but in the playoffs this year, he has become one of the guys Trotz counts on every night.