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Noah Dobson is one step away from realizing a childhood dream.
The Summerside native will start the 2019-20 campaign with the New York Islanders and could play in his first National Hockey League regular-season game as early as Friday night, when the Washington Capitals visit the NYCB Live/Nassau Coliseum.
“I’m excited and it’s been a dream of mine to play in the NHL,” said Dobson. “Now I just want to continue working hard, doing my best and prove I belong here.”
Dobson officially found out he was starting the year with the Islanders on Tuesday.
“It’s been kind of crazy the last few days,” admitted the son of Andrew and Jenny Dobson.
“All indications are, on and off the ice, he’s going to be able to handle the NHL.”
- Andrew Gross, Newsday Islanders beat writer
The 12th overall selection in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft by the Islanders, Dobson had lots of eyes on him entering this year’s training camp. He played key roles in helping the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies win the 2018 and 2019 Memorial Cups, respectively.
Due to the fact he’s 19-years-old, he’s not eligible to play in the American Hockey League. That means he either has to stick with the Islanders or return to major junior, although playing in Europe is an outside possibility as well.
“All indications are, on and off the ice, he’s going to be able to handle the NHL,” said Andrew Gross, the Islanders’ beat writer for Newsday. “He’s a very mature kid and he’s not overwhelmed by anything.
“He certainly is going to learn how much stronger he needs to get and his body is still developing, even though he’s 6’4”. It’s going to be a good learning season for him.”
Dobson can play up to nine games with the Islanders before the first year of his NHL entry-level deal kicks in.
“I really have a hard time seeing the Islanders returning him to junior unless it’s just an absolute disaster at the beginning,” said Gross. “I also don’t get the sense, because he’s here, he’s playing all 82 games.”
However, Gross quickly added that “I make a fool of myself trying to predict” what Islanders president of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello and head coach Barry Trotz are “thinking in terms of lineups.”
“it’s hard to believe he’s 19. He’s big, he’s fast and he’s a presence on the ice immediately.”
- Allan Kreda, New York Times' Islanders beat writer
Allan Kreda, who covers the Islanders and New York Rangers for the New York Times, has been impressed with Dobson.
“He’s been something,” said Kreda. “When you watch him play, it’s hard to believe he’s 19. He’s big, he’s fast and he’s a presence on the ice immediately. You can’t miss him.
“They have needed more size and, in that division, size will be key. There are heavy teams all around them.
“I’m sure Barry Trotz and his staff will find ways to improve him quickly, but it’s quite a leap from junior to the Islanders. I am always impressed when a player can do that, start playing and achieving.”
This was Dobson’s second year attending the Islanders’ main training camp and he said his previous experience helped his confidence and comfort levels.
“Just knowing the surroundings and a lot of the guys and knowing what to expect,” said Dobson. “When you are playing good hockey, you are confident and you believe in yourself that you can be there.
“That experience really helped me and really paid dividends in getting me on the team this year.”
Kreda expects the Islanders will be cautious bringing Dobson along, but he would not be surprised if he sees some power-play time right away.
“I don’t know who his partner exactly will be, Trotz likes to mix it up a lot in camp,” said Kreda. “I always wait to see what they do when the season starts and who goes with who.
“It seems like he always has a plan for every player. Nothing is by guess work, or we’ll see how it goes type of thing.
“They know what they want from each player clearly. I saw that last year practically every game. Everyone had a defined role and there was no, ‘Hey, what do we do in situations?’
“I figure with a young player they will not use (Dobson) in every situation right away and I am sure his minutes will not be at the top two or three on the team. But, really, he is top six and I’m sure he’ll be in the lineup every night to start.”
Dobson has been staying at a hotel for training camp and expects his living accommodations to be sorted out over time.
“Some of the older guys have offered to take me in and we’ll see what the team says and we’ll go from there,” said Dobson. “All the older guys have been good with me helping me fit in and making me feel welcome. It (shows) the character in the room and how well they treat the young guys.”
Two veterans who Dobson has spent time with are defencemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy, who Gross predicted could be Dobson’s partner on the blue-line.
“I have been having some personal dinners with some of them,” said Dobson. “It makes you feel part of the team when you are going out for dinner with the older guys.”
Dobson has also been spending a lot of time with Islanders forward and former Summerside Western Capital and Charlottetown Islander Ross Johnston of Suffolk.
“I’ve been out to dinner with him a few times and he’s been driving me around a bit,” said Dobson. “It’s really good having a fellow (Prince Edward) Islander (here) and I’m excited to have him on the team as well.
“It’s great for me as he’s been here a few years, he’s comfortable and knows his surroundings.”
Kreda compared Dobson’s style to that of Islanders defenceman Ryan Pulock.
“They have that big cannon from the blue-line and (Dobson provides) another one from the right side,” said Kreda. “I was really struck by his size and skating ability. You look up and wow, ‘Who’s that No. 45?’
“That was the number he was wearing at camp and was a can’t-miss person on the ice.”
Newsday’s Andrew Gross assesses Noah Dobson’s training camp:
“He could certainly handle the speed under pressure in drills in training camp and in some of the pre-season games. His poise was very evident in that he is making the good outlet passes and he can skate it out of trouble.
“Barry (Trotz, head coach) and Lou (Lamoriello, president of hockey operations) both said his first pre-season game wasn’t the best, but he showed consistent progress from there to the point where their seventh pre-season game, their last one, they didn’t even bother putting him in the lineup because they said they had seen all they needed to see from him to make up their mind.
“To be fair, if he was AHL eligible, I don’t think there is any doubt he would be starting the season in the AHL. Both Lou and Barry have talked about how that rule kind of hurts some people in terms of their development.
“The management just saw no benefit of returning him to junior. They were actually worried he would get bad habits if he was returned to his junior team.”
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