Noah Dobson gets it. Not that he enjoyed getting limited playing time as a rookie. But now, as he has inherited a full-time role with the Islanders in his second season, the 21-year-old defenseman understands how coach Barry Trotz’s strategy helped his development.
"Last year, just being honest, not playing isn’t fun, you always want to be playing," Dobson said after Tuesday’s practice at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow in his first media availability this season. "But I think the amount of time we had off in the offseason, I had time to reflect on just the year itself. Looking back, I feel like it’s probably going to be the best thing for me moving forward."
The Islanders open a home-and-home series with the Devils on Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum and it’s been an up-and-down first three games for Dobson, mirroring the team’s 2-1-0 start.
He played a solid 17:50 in Monday’s 1-0 win over the Bruins at the Coliseum and had an assist in his 20:35 in the season-opening 4-0 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. But the first of Dobson’s several turnovers in 14:12 led to the Rangers’ first goal in their 5-0 rout on Saturday at the Garden.
"He wasn’t very good against the Rangers," Trotz said. "I thought last night he responded very well. That’s what you want to see in a young guy."
Dobson acknowledged it’s easier for him to bounce back from sub-par performances knowing he is not going to be pulled from the lineup. The 12th overall pick in 2018 had a goal and six assists in 34 games last season as the Islanders chose to keep him on their roster rather than return him to his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League squad.
He played in one of the Islanders’ 22 postseason games, the decisive 2-1 Game 6 overtime loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals.
"Just come along slow and learning from the older guys," said Dobson, who is also quarterbacking the first power-play unit. "Getting in the game in the conference final I thought was really huge for my confidence just going into the offseason."
Dobson has been paired with Andy Greene, the third in a line of veteran mentors that included living with Dennis Seidenberg’s family and having Johnny Boychuk take him under his proverbial wing last season while partnering with him on the ice.
Boychuk’s career was ended by an eye injury and Devon Toews was traded to the Avalanche this offseason because of salary cap considerations, allowing Dobson to assume a full-time role.
Notes & quotes: Michael Dal Colle (injured reserve/undisclosed), rookie Oliver Wahlstrom and defenseman Thomas Hickey, all on the taxi squad, were merged with the main group for practice. Dal Colle skated on Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s wing along with rookie Kieffer Bellows while Ross Johnston, who has played the first three games on Pageau’s line, worked with Leo Komarov and Wahlstrom as an extra line. Trotz said it was likely the Islanders would continue having expanded groups at practice as he tries to settle on Pageau’s linemates. Both Bellows and Johnston played less than seven minutes on Monday. "It was the right decision to go with what we started with, based on what we saw and what we thought we needed," Trotz said. "It’s a little bit of competition to get an opportunity to play or practice. Show me what you have and then we’ll figure that out." Trotz added Dal Colle is "very close" to coming off IR.
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