Isles prospect Dobson blazing path to NHL
First-round pick captures second straight Memorial Cup, MVP honors
Lou Lamoriello isn’t exactly one to openly gush over a player, especially on draft night.
But the Islanders’ team president and general manager was beside himself with glee last June when the team was able to select defenseman Noah Dobson with the 12th overall pick.
“The defenseman from Quebec, Dobson, has so much upside as far as skill and offense. I don’t think we could be more delighted,” Lamoriello cooed after the Isles made Dobson their second first-round choice, just one pick after they took forward Oliver Wahlstrom, who spent last season at Boston College.
Turns out Lamoriello knew what he was talking about.
Dobson, who was chosen by the Isles just days after helping Acadie-Bathurst win a Memorial Cup title, repeated the feat in his second Juniors campaign with Rouyn-Noranda last week.
Only this time, he was also honored as the league’s playoff Most Valuable Player after racking up eight goals and 21 assists in 20 postseason contests, doubling down on his brilliant 2017-18 campaign
The 19-year-old blueliner became the second Isles player in three years to capture playoff MVP honors after current New York star Mathew Barzal did the same in 2016-17.
Barzal, of course, went on to capture the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie the year before last, and helped New York win just its second playoff series since 1993 this past season, contributing two goals and five assists during the Isles’ eight-game postseason run.
For Dobson, who has likely maxed out at the Junior level, the next step will be earning a spot on the Isles’ Opening Night roster when they begin the 2019-20 campaign here in Brooklyn and on Long Island.
Though he staked with the Isles in training camp last summer and played during the exhibition campaign, he was ultimately returned to Juniors, where he continued to flourish.
There is no doubt that the highly touted prospect has been preparing to make the leap to the Isles, who inked him a three-year, entry-level contract last August.
“From my game side, I think I’ve really matured and grown into a complete defenseman, a two-way guy,” Dobson said on the Isles’ web site last month.
“My defensive game has really grown; [I’m] more physical in the corners, gotten stronger, been battling. It’s something that came with getting older, having a little more experience and filling out into your body a little more.”
Having gone from the league’s worst defensive team to its best in only one season under head coach Barry Trotz, the Isles could doubtlessly use Dobson’s self-described “two-way” game in punching up an offense that struggled mightily in the playoffs.
“He’s a really heady defenseman,” Bridgeport Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson said of Dobson during last summer’s daily skates ahead of training camp.
“He asks some really good questions out there and made good points. His feet are good, big body.”
At 6-foot-3, Dobson, who also played for Team Canada in the recently completed World Hockey Championships, certainly casts an imposing defensive figure for invading forwards that dare to cross over into the Isles’ zone.
But it is Dobson’s mental makeup and competitive nature that make him a player to watch in 2019-20, much the way Barzal broke in with a bang during his rookie campaign.
“As a person, I think you can definitely grow. I had my first trade [from Acadie-Bathurst to Rouyn-Noranda this past season] and grew from that,” he noted.
“You’re sad and then there’s an adjustment period as well. Overall, it’s been a great year and I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can do in this stretch ahead and just continuing to improve [my game].”
Islander fans will likely get a shot to see Dobson in action later this month.
The team will host the 2019 Blue and White Scrimmage on Thursday, June 27 at 6 p.m., at the Northwell Health Ice Center on Long Island, the team’s official practice facility.
This year’s Blue and White game will feature the 2019 Isles draft class, as well as top prospects from previous draft years.
Wahlstrom, who accumulated 19 points in 36 games for BC this year before signing a three-year, entry-level deal with the Isles in March, should also be skating alongside Dobson at the event.
Isle Have Another: The Isles inked a pair of their budding young players to multi-year contracts last week, securing forward Tanner Fritz to a two-year pact while agreeing on a three-year deal with winger Arnaud Durandeau. Fritz played in eight games for New York this past season and 57 for the team’s AHL affiliate in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He piled up 37 points in 57 games for the Sound Tigers. Durandeau broke through with a big year in Juniors just like Dobson, amassing 38 goals and 35 assists for the Halifax Mooseheads. The 20-year-old was New York’s sixth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.
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