As the Islanders await their next game, there’s this: Noah Dobson has taken the next step toward reaching the lofty ceiling projected when the smooth-skating defenseman was selected 12th overall in 2018.
All before his 22nd birthday, which comes on Friday.
"I think he’s playing with a lot more confidence," defense partner Zdeno Chara said after the Islanders practiced on Monday at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. "That’s huge for anyone who plays this game. You can see in his game he’s making some plays, being there for us in crucial times. He’s using his hockey sense and his skating ability. He’s playing really well."
Dobson scored his first overtime winner as the Islanders, who next host the Devils on Jan. 13, beat the Oilers, 3-2, on Saturday afternoon at UBS Arena. He matched a career high with five shots, extended his point streak to three games (two goals, three assists) and had his second straight multi-point game.
He has four goals and four assists in his last seven games — the last six paired with Chara — and is third on the team in ice time, averaging 20:23 per game.
"It definitely feels great," Dobson said Saturday. "Any time you get a chance to contribute like that in a big game and get a big win. I was really happy to score a big one. I’ll definitely remember that one."
Dobson’s development hasn’t been all smooth this season, his third in the NHL, and he was a healthy scratch for a 4-1 loss at Tampa Bay on Nov. 15.
But as the team battled through its COVID-19 outbreak, he started to meet the challenge of more on-ice responsibility.
Chara’s mentorship can’t be overlooked, either. The 44-year-old future Hall of Famer said he treats all teammates equally, regardless of age or experience, but has tried to encourage Dobson.
"I think you have to let players play within their instincts," Chara said. "If I can, it’s basically to encourage him just to use his skating ability and his hockey sense and using the right time and the right plays in the game."
In all, Dobson has come a long way from his debut, also against the Oilers, when he had an assist in a 5-2 loss at Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 8, 2019.
"A lot of things have transpired since then. It’s been a crazy couple of years," he said. "It’s definitely a memory that I still remember a lot to this day and, hopefully, just make more memories."
Notes & quotes: Associate coach Lane Lambert ran practice with Barry Trotz still absent from the team for personal reasons. Lambert also ran the bench for Saturday’s win. "As far as Barry is concerned, that timetable is uncertain," Lambert said . . . Brock Nelson, who missed the last two games while in COVID-19 protocol, and Kyle Palmieri, who remains on injured reserve with a lower-body issue that has kept him out of the last two games, returned to practice.