(Elmont, NY) -- Noah Dobson posted a productive performance in the month of December, while also displaying his solid two-way game
by Sasha Kandrach @KandrachSasha / NewYorkIslanders.com
It's been quite the month for Noah Dobson.
The Islanders' defenseman put an exclamation mark on a productive December with a two-point (1G, 1A) outing in Thursday night's 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres at UBS Arena, the team's final game of the calendar year.
The victory featured a strong two-way performance by Dobson, who capped the night with a plus-three rating - he was on the ice for all four Islanders' goals - and was a catalyst for the Islanders' offense. The 21-year-old buried his fourth goal of the season and fourth in the last eight games. He also helped set up Mathew Barzal's icebreaker in the first period with his bullish dash up the ice to record his eighth point (4G, 4A) throughout the last nine games.
As of Dec. 31, Dobson is tied with San Jose's Erik Karlsson, Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman, Colorado's Cale Makar and Edmonton's Evan Bouchard for the most goals among NHL defensemen in the month of December, with only him and Hedman having scored all of their goals on home ice.
"What you're seeing with Noah is he's growing as a player," Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz said following Thursday's win against Buffalo. "Even on [Barzal's] goal, he carried the puck, he drove to the net, he executed the play systematically. He's playing with a lot of poise. He's a real important, young player for us. What you're seeing is the confidence that he's growing with. The ice time that he deserves. It starts with having some production and playing against top players. I said at the end of the playoffs last year that I saw some growth in [Dobson]. That's really where you see players grow is in the playoffs and I thought he took a big step last year."
As Trotz pointed out, Dobson's bountiful month has been a culmination of his development since breaking into the NHL at just 19 years of age. Like most young players, it's been an ongoing learning process.
Prior to his decisive December, Dobson was a healthy scratch on Nov. 15 against Tampa Bay due to some "inconsistent" play. That was short-lived as the Islanders' blueline took a hit due to injuries (Ryan Pulock's sustained a lower-body injury that night) and in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak in the latter half of the month and carrying over into December. With those unfortunate circumstances, Dobson embraced the opportunity to step up.
In the time since, he's been a key fixture on the Islanders' blueline where he's adapted to the circumstances with various d-partners like veterans Andy Greene or Zdeno Chara. He's also flexed his offensive instincts as he leads the Islanders' d-core in scoring with 12 points (4G, 8A) through 25 games and is on-pace to set a career-high season across the board. He currently quarterbacks one of the Islanders' two power-play units, where he's posted four points (1G, 3A) and has logged the second-most minutes - behind Barzal - on the extra-man unit at 62:11.
"He's growing in this league," Greene said. "He's getting more comfortable and confident. Just knowing when he's in certain situations what to do. Honestly, it starts in the d-zone. He's way more assertive, he's way more aggressive. That translates and then he's getting up the ice well, he's seeing the ice well, he's getting pucks in. They [the shots] are going in right now and he's also quarterbacking the power play well right now too."
And while his play has been applauded for his offensive contributions and confidence in showcasing his smooth skating to carry the puck coast-to-coast, his defensive play has been a solid component as Greene emphasized.
Dobson has settled into this 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame and matured in his defensive details. He's shown some edge as he has thrown the ninth most hits among the team with 33, displayed a fearless side as he's tied with Scott Mayfield for the most blocks at 51 and embraced a taxing workload of taking on heavy minutes - he's totaled the second-most time on ice behind Mayfield at 505:03 - and has been tasked with defending the likes of opponent's top lines.
"He's getting a better understanding of all those moments where risk and reward are balanced," Trotz said.
While Dobson has certainly taken strides in his game, his maturation isn't a linear process. As the young defenseman continues to navigate that process as he learns, grows, struggles and succeeds, he is centering his focus on the things he can control and the immediate task at hand to help his team.
"For myself, I'm just trying to focus on playing my game," Dobson said. "With a couple of guys out of the lineup each and every night, you've got to step up. It just starts with playing hard in the d-zone and everything works off of that. I'm just playing with a lot of confidence right now and trying to be responsible defensively. Offensively, I'm trying to chip in when I can."
Source: (NewYorkIslanders.com - December 31st, 2021)