Not too many players can lay claim to having already accomplished everything at the junior level. Noah Dobson can say it with authority.
Dobson won his second Memorial Cup this spring and was named to the Memorial Cup All-Star Team for a second consecutive year. Add in his second QMJHL title, a playoff MVP and all of the sudden, there's not a lot of hardware left for Dobson to win.
It's looking more and more like when instead of if for Dobson joining the Islanders and he'll have a chance to state his case at the team's training camp in the fall. It'll be either Islanders or another year in Rouyn-Noranda for the 19-year-old, who won't be old enough to go to Bridgeport, making this a big summer. Dobson is hungry through and believes he's almost ready to make the jump.
"I'm confident in my ability," Dobson said of trying to crack the Islanders lineup this September. "Obviously, a big summer ahead. I just finished playing a couple of weeks ago. Once I get into training, add some strength, maybe add a few pounds to the frame, then I'll be confident. You've got to go in with the mindset that you can make it and believe in yourself. Come September, I definitely feel ready."
Video: Isles Mini Camp 2019: Day 1
After being traded midseason from Acadie-Bathurst Titan - where he served as captain - to Rouyn-Noranda Dobson helped usher the Huskies to their first Memorial Cup in club history. Dobson's prolific offense helped get Rouyn-Noranda to the tournament and his prior experience helped the Huskies win.
"It was huge [to have that experience] going into the tournament," Dobson said. "I was a lot more comfortable and knowing what to expect. The first year you don't really know what to expect. We ended up losing the first game [of the Memorial Cup round robin style tournament], but I think just having the experience from last year, you don't need to panic, [you] just have a short-term memory and win the next game to get back in the tournament. The experience definitely helped."
Dobson put up 52 points (15G, 37A) through 56 regular season games, with 36 points (6G, 30A) coming in 28 games after the trade. During the playoffs, the right-shot blueliner posted 29 points (8G, 21A) through 20 games and was awarded the Guy-Lafleur Trophy as the QMJHL's Most Valuable Player.
"He played a lot of minutes for us," fellow Rouyn-Noranda and newly-drafted Isles prospect Felix Bibeau (178th overall) said. "He was in every situation. He was a leader for us. He played great hockey. In the semis and in the final, he was there for us. I think he played his best hockey. He's one of the reasons why we won that tournament."
The Summerside, PEI native is conscious of his lanky frame, so adding size is a priority this summer. At 6-foot-4, 193-pounds, Dobson is continuously learning to use his size as an advantage, though he prides himself on being a puck-moving defenseman.
"[I think I was] a lot better defensively and I was a lot harder to play against in the corners and stuff," Dobson said of his performance this season. "I think that comes with being comfortable being a third-year in the league as well as developing in size and strength. I got a little bigger. I was more comfortable with my body to be more physical in front of the net and in front of the boards. It really helped me to round out my game and become more of a complete D."
Following his Memorial Cup run, Dobson kept a close eye on the NHL. He closely dissected the play of St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo for his similar build and style.
"I watched as much as I could," Dobson said. "If we weren't playing I was usually watching hockey. Pietrangelo is a good role model. He plays a solid style. He has a two-way game. Got to see lots of him. He went all the way and ended up being a big role player for the Blues in the Stanley Cup Final."
Dobson kept close tabs on the Isles this season and noted the changes in the established structure and disciplined culture. He hopes his smooth skating and sharp hockey IQ can compliment the defense-first style implemented across the Islanders organization.
"You've got to be really good defensively," Dobson said. "That's one of [the Islanders] key strengths, they're a really good defensive team. They led the team in goals against. You've just got to take care of your own end first. I think I can add a little puck-moving from the d-man, get up in the rush and create offense as well. The main thing is that you've got to focus on the defensive part of the game. That's one of my main strengths."
Much like in his second Memorial Cup, Dobson feels more comfortable the second time around as he participates in his second Islanders Mini Camp.
"I think you've just got to be a good role model, do all of the little things right," Dobson said. "If you see a guy who is lost a bit you just kind of help them out. It makes a big difference in one year. Last year, I was the new kid who didn't really know much. Now, I'm comfortable here and can help the guys out who were in my shoes last year."
With sights set on September, he plans to use the mid-summer camp to further improve his game.
"[This time around] I'm just trying to learn as much as you can," Dobson said. "There are so many great coaches around at the pro level that you can learn lots from. I think just keep developing my game as much as I can and take it with me this summer, come back from summer and have a good camp [in September]."