Dobson Romanov

Alexander Romanov and Noah Dobson have a few things in common. Both defensemen were drafted in 2018, they’re born a day apart and this season they emerged as big pieces of the New York Islanders’ blue line, despite being two of its youngest members.

“I mean, you kind of forget how young they are sometimes, right?” Adam Pelech said. “They're only 24 years old. We all saw it coming, it was really nice to see the growth this year from both of them.”

They young defensemen stepped up when the  back end was hampered by injuries. When Pelech, Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield went down with injuries earlier in the season- including an eight-game stretch in December when all three were out at the same time - Dobson and Romanov took on increased ice time. Dobson played over 25 minutes for 21 straight games from Nov. 24 to Jan. 6, while Romanov averaged 23:52 over that same stretch, an increase of over two minutes per game. Both Dobson (24:30) and Romanov (20:50) finished the season with new career highs in TOI/GP. Through shouldering the extra work and providing much-needed reinforcement, the young blueliners proved their ability to rise to the occasion. 

“[Romanov] and [Dobson] were really unbelievable, especially in the first half of the year playing huge minutes and [Dobson] playing like 30 minutes a night or something crazy,” Pelech said. “They both really stepped up. They played amazing and were so important for this team.”

NYI@CBJ: Dobson scores goal against Jet Greaves

Looking at the two young defensemen, both elevated their game to a noticeable level, but their accolades vary. 

Dobson’s offensive burst speaks for itself. His 70 points in 79 games exceeded his previous career high by 19 points, while he proved to be an essential piece on the man advantage with 24 power play points. His 60 assists put him in very exclusive company, joining Denis Potvin as the only Isles blueliners to reach that mark. He said the key to his breakout year was a solid offseason, attributing the quality training he put in over the summer and the confidence he came in with in September. 

“I thought I had a good offseason, came in feeling good and played some good hockey,” Dobson said. “Obviously still lots of room to keep getting better each year but I was happy with the strides I made this season to take my game to another level.”

The Prince Edward Island, CAN native has always had an offensive prowess, putting up 51 and 49-point campaigns leading up to his 70-point, 60-assist season this year, but the defensive side of his game reached a new level this season. He recorded a career-high plus-12, a team-high blocks (181) and played responsible hockey on special teams. 

“I think he improved his defensive game too, [and] offensively he’s been awesome,” Romanov said. “He’s been great. A great partner for me, I’m really comfortable playing with him.” 

The two were rock-solid partners, spending 711:30 TOI at five on five this season, on the ice for 35 goals for and 20 against. Romanov brought a physical edge to the duo – his 157 hits lead all defensemen on the team - and proved to be defensively sound. The Moscow, RUS native established a career-high 171 blocked shots, which was the second highest on the Isles. Notably, he quietly posted a standout stat. Not only did Romanov’s plus-23 lead the team, but he ranked 12th in the NHL among defensemen and 23rd among all skaters.

TOR@NYI: Romanov scores goal against Martin Jones

Romanov, who was acquired from Montreal in the 2022 offseason, set a new career-high in goals (7), replicated his career-high point total (22) in his second full season with the Islanders, but was also noticeably more confident on and off the ice. 

“I love playing with him, he's great in all situations. He's obviously got that physical presence, but he sees the ice well and makes the play, he's aggressive,” Dobson said. “I think just him coming in comfortable with the guys and the way we play and all that was huge for him but was really happy to see him have the success he had this year.” 

Playing consistently night in, night out while striving to reach his own high standard of play were two goals Romanov set for himself ahead of this season, which paid dividends. 

“I said last year I should play more consistently,” Romanov said. “I tried to keep my game on a high level, my own high level, and tried to play as hard as I can every day.”

Romanov and Dobson’s growth is a real positive coming out of the 2023-24 season. Their potential from here is something to be excited about. 

“It was amazing to see the steps that they both took this season,” Pelech said. “They both improved a ton and now you're seeing like two elite NHL defensemen.”

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