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Youth infusion of Noah Dobson and Oliver Wahlstrom giving Islanders a boost 

Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson warms up before an

Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson warms up before an NHL game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nassau Coliseum on Feb. 28. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Rookie Oliver Wahlstrom’s recent play has certainly garnered plenty of attention.

But don’t forget second-year defenseman Noah Dobson when considering the bigger picture for the Islanders.

Together, the team’s two first-round picks in 2018 have infused the Islanders’ lineup with some much-needed youthful talent.

"I think it’s necessary for a team to grow," coach Barry Trotz said.

The Islanders open a five-game homestand on Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum with the first of three straight games against the East Division-trailing Sabres. They enter having won two straight games and on a 4-0-1 streak overall.

Wahlstrom, the 11th overall pick, brings a career-high five-game point streak (three goals, three assists) into Thursday’s game while solidifying a spot on third-line center Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s right wing as well as on the second power-play unit.

Dobson, the 12th overall pick, has been in the lineup for every game while quarterbacking the first power-play unit after being deliberately eased into the lineup last season with a goal and six assists in 34 games.

"Every team is in a different position," said Trotz, in his third season with the Islanders. "The first year, we infused our team with veteran players from a cultural standpoint with a change of the guard with John [Tavares] leaving. And then we tried to buy some time so our young guys could marinate the right way so they could become good players. It’s necessary for teams to have those infusions of young players and enthusiasm that younger people generally bring."

"It’s huge," said 33-year-old right wing Cal Clutterbuck, who joined the Islanders in 2013. "If you look at teams that have consistently been successful, you have go through waves and guys have to come up and force their way in. Guys have done that. Wahlly’s hit his stride. I think everybody saw the talent level he had and what his potential was. Same thing with Dobber. They used last year as a bit of a learning curve for him and he’s still learning on the fly but he’s getting better every night. He’s been pretty good for us."

The Islanders opted to keep Dobson on last season’s roster because the brass felt that would be better for his development than returning him to his junior hockey team, even if he wasn’t in the NHL lineup consistently. Dobson was not eligible to play in the AHL last season, which might have served him best.

But with Devon Toews traded to the Avalanche because of salary-cap concerns and Johnny Boychuk forced into de facto retirement because of an eye injury, Dobson inherited a full-time role this season.

"Each day, I’m trying to get better," said Dobson, who has a goal and seven assists in the Islanders’ first 22 games. "I’m trying to play my best each night. I don’t take for granted being in the lineup every night. I just focus on the games and, when I get there, do the right things and play well and continue to build."

Dobson added it’s been easier to go through the same learning and growing experiences as Wahlstrom, not that they’ve discussed their impact on the lineup with each other.

"Not really, but it’s definitely nice to think about," Dobson said. "Last year, we didn’t have too many young guys in the lineup. I think it’s nice, this year, with Wahlly, just having a guy that we went through the same process, the same draft, the development camps together. I’ve really enjoyed having him around. He’s a fun guy to be around and he’s been doing really well for us and scored some big goals."

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