Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson (8) skates against Washington Capitals center...

Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson (8) skates against Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 11, 2023, in Elmont. Credit: Mary Altaffer

LOS ANGELES — It wasn’t always easy getting to see West Coast games growing up on Prince Edward Island, a Canadian province further east than any part of the U.S. East Coast. But Noah Dobson tried to watch the Kings’ Drew Doughty when he could.

“Yeah, quite a bit,” the Islanders defenseman said. “Growing up as a D-man, I enjoyed watching him as much as I could. He’s a great player.”

The Islanders, battling to maintain one of the Eastern Conference’s two wild-card spots, opened a three-game California swing against the Kings on Tuesday night at Crypto.com Arena.

And while it’s unfair to expect any player to completely mirror Doughty’s accomplishments as a two-time Stanley Cup champion and Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s top defenseman equally adept in both the offensive and defensive zones, the Islanders know Dobson has the skills to be one of the league’s best.

Provided he improves defensively.

“Noah can be that,” said top-line center Bo Horvat, who skates with Doughty in the summer as both are from London, Ontario. “He’s definitely got the offensive skill and I think he’s got that drive and the work ethic to be that type of player that Drew is. He’s still young so he’s still got some time to grow.

“If I were him, I’d be shooting to be a player like that for sure.”

Dobson, 23 and in his fourth NHL season, entered Tuesday with 12 goals and 26 assists in 64 games, needing one goal to match his career high from last season.

But his defensive game has been problematic at times, both in terms of turnovers and positioning as he has been paired with Sebastian Aho.

The plus-minus statistic is a flawed one but Dobson, at minus-4 entering Tuesday, is the only Islander defenseman on the negative side of the ledger. Dobson also was leading Islanders defensemen with 30 high-danger chances against, per NaturalStatTrick.com.

“There’s some consistencies, at times, that we’re looking for a little bit more,” coach Lane Lambert said. “He’s no different than any other defenseman. Every defenseman has that learning curve coming in when they’re a young defenseman. He’s logged more ice time against more difficult opposition this year than he has in the past.”

Dobson was averaging 20:43 of ice time entering Tuesday. That’s up from his career average of 18:58.

“You have ups and downs in a season,” defenseman Ryan Pulock. “Not even ups and downs. It can be situational. It can be a lot of different things. It’s just what happens throughout the season. He’s a great player. He’s an important player for us. I think he’s matured a lot over the years and I think he’s going to continue to grow.”

Pulock noted how he spent 163 games over parts of four seasons with the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport before securing a full-time role in the NHL.

In comparison, Dobson has not played a single AHL game since being selected 12th overall in 2018, jumping directly from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to the Islanders.

“Every day, I’m just trying to keep better, working on the game,” Dobson said. “Defensively, I feel like at the start of the year I needed to work on that. I’ve been trying to focus on the details of that area of the ice. There are still times where you can still do better and keep working on the game.”

Dobson isn’t trying to directly emulate Doughty. But he’d like to eventually be a Doughty-like player.

“If you look at his accolades, I think any d-man would like to check off the boxes that he has.”

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