Noah Dobson has always found ways to use the hand he was dealt to his advantage.
His rookie season with the New York Islanders was no different. From the start of the season, Dobson embraced the novelty of being in the NHL in all aspects and handled the jump to the world's top hockey league with grace. He even moved in with former Islanders defenseman, Dennis Seidenberg, and his family, for the season to help ease his transition.
The season itself was an adjustment as Dobson, who was accustomed to logging hefty minutes in decisive situations in junior, began learning the pro game from the different veteran teammates in the room and absorbed their expertise. His patience was rewarded as he saw consistent action in the Isles lineup in the second half of the season.
Video: Isles Highlights: Noah Dobson
With seven points (1G, 6A) in 34 games, things were coming together for Dobson when the league indefinitely suspended the season on March 12 due to the international COVID-19 outbreak. Instead of lamenting the situation Dobson rolled with the circumstances.
"I ended up staying in New York the whole time," Dobson said via Zoom to reporters on Sunday afternoon. "It was a good opportunity to make up for some of the [training] time I had lost with two long seasons of junior [hockey]. I was able to continue to train and try to get stronger. It worked out well."
The now 20-year-old has impressed his coaching staff and fellow teammates - including those who are nearly 15 years older than him - with his exquisite hockey IQ and remarkable maturity for his tender age. But with a 6-foot-4, 184-pound frame, one of the focuses of the season has been developing his physical strength and conditioning.
While most of his teammates returned to their hometowns to quarantine, Dobson took into account the resources around him on Long Island and sought the most productive option to foster his own development as a player.
"With limited stuff back home and with my family house back home [on Prince Edward Island], there wasn't much stuff I could do with training," Dobson explained. "Dennis has a pretty good setup here [on Long Island] and lots of equipment."
For the uninitiated, Seidenberg's fitness and conditioning were stuff of legend during his playing career and still are as he continues to work with the team.
"[Dennis] was able to help me get stronger," Dobson continued. "It's always nice having a training partner as well. The whole family took really great care of me. I'm really grateful to have them and the presence they've had on me so far."
Now, with the Islanders returning a full and healthy roster, training camp has been bursting with competition at every position, but most fiercely among the blueliners.
"For myself and going into camp, my goal has just been to show that I'm ready if I get the opportunity to play," Dobson said. "With so much depth on D - for not only myself, but for every guy - it pushes them to be at their best each day. Going forward it's going to make our whole d-corps better. As a group, everyone is pushing each other and there's lots of competition. At the end of the day, the six guys that get the competition to play are going to be ready I'm sure and that's going to be because of all of the guys pushing each other for spots."
Video: Islanders Player Availability 7/19
From the first day on the ice throughout the first full week of camp, Head Coach Barry Trotz has praised the competition among his defenseman all vying for game spots. Trotz noted that the Dobson-Andy Greene pair, has impressed him during camp, and Greene has noticed the preparedness and continued growth in Dobson since the break.
"Been fortunate enough in my years to play with a lot of young guys and talk to them and to be there for them," Greene said on Sunday's Zoom call. "The way Dobber skates and plays, he's a thoroughbred out there. He skates really well, sees the ice well and you can see his confidence just since we've been back, just how well he's playing and how comfortable he is, just like any player that gets the reps in."
The d-corps have another week to make their case to Trotz, who is expecting all of his defensemen to be ready to go if the Isles want to make a deep run. That includes Dobson, who used his time wisely during the pause.
"They know there's only six spots; there's eight, nine, 10 guys that are very capable of stepping in," Trotz said. "Obviously, the guys that we have used in the past have a little leg up on that, but they're all right there and they're battling for, as we say, seating. Next man up mentality."