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Dobson's Unique Path Leads to Islanders

The Isles prospect's journey to NHL led through Austria, Acadie-Bathurst and the Memorial Cup

by Cory Wright WrightsWay / New York Islanders

It took about 40 days for Noah Dobson to run through the table on the teenage hockey player's checklist. 

Win the QMJHL title on May 13. Check. 

Win the Memorial Cup and get named to the all-star team on May 27. Check. Check. 

Get drafted in the first round of the NHL draft on June 22. Yahtzee. 

"It's pretty crazy to think about how much I was able to go through and accomplish in a month," Dobson said at Islanders Mini Camp at the end of June. "At the end of the day it's what you dream of as a kid and any hockey player would love to be in my shoes so I'm just trying to soak it all in and enjoy the experience." 

The Isles earned high praise for being able to land Dobson with the 12th overall pick and fellow first-round pick Oliver Wahlstrom with the 11th, as both were projected to be top-10 talents ahead of the draft. 

Video: Mini Camp: Noah Dobson

"These were two players we had very high," Islanders President and GM Lou Lamoriello said on draft night. "The defenseman from Quebec, Dobson, has so much upside as far as skill and offense. I don't think we could be more delighted." 

Dobson made a further impression at Islanders Mini Camp at the end of June, catching the eye of the Isles brass once skates hit the ice at Northwell Health Ice Center.

 "He's a really heady defenseman," said Bridgeport Sound Tigers Head Coach Brent Thompson, who was running the daily skates. "He asks some really good questions out there and made good points. His feet are good, big body." 

The next checkpoint for Dobson is attending the World Junior Showcase in Kamloops, BC with Team Canada from July 28-Aug 4 (Oliver Wahlstrom, Logan Cockerill and Ben Mirageas will be there with Team USA). But while Dobson scorches through the junior hockey to-do list, the 18 year old has handled the spotlight and the whirlwind months maturely. 

FROM PRINCE EDWARD ISLANDER TO NEW YORK ISLANDER: 

Noah Dobson is a pretty laid back kid, who speaks softly and calmly, even with the NHL media swarming him at his draft podium. Just ask Ryan MacKinnon, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers defenseman who is Dobson's neighbor back in Summerside, PEI and sat two stalls from Dobson at mini camp, and he'll vouch that low key is Dobson's default setting. 

"He's definitely a down to earth guy and comes from a great family," MacKinnon said. "It was definitely no secret back home that he had a special talent. Not only a special player, but a great kid, he holds himself to a pretty high standard off the ice as well."

MacKinnon's younger brother, Carson, is Dobson's best friend, so MacKinnon knows him well, from playing street hockey growing up. Safe to say the PEI neighbors didn't envision winding up on another island together, but were happy about that development. 

"We were watching the draft and pick after pick we were seeing the possibility of it and then it finally happened," MacKinnon said. "I was getting texts and Noah was getting texts as well. People from our neighborhood are proud of a PEI guy."

Throwing it back to cg #missit #teampei

A post shared by Noah Dobson (@n_dobson) on

Another PEI guy who was happy to see Dobson join the Islanders' fold was Ross Johnston. Johnston - who MacKinnon described as the best cow farmer on PEI - texted Dobson to welcome him to the organization, offering to help if he needed anything, which the young prospect appreciated. 

The PEI connections helped Dobson transition into his first NHL camp - and first visit to New York - but the defenseman isn't fazed by much and that's in part to his unique path through minor and junior hockey. 

A DETOUR TO AUSTRIA: 

Prior to playing for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in the QMJHL, Dobson spent the 2015-16 season overseas playing in Red Bull Salzburg's hockey academy in Austria, leaving home and moving halfway around the world at age 15. 

"At first my mom was like 'no way you're going all the way over there,' but once we got more of the details and stuff it seemed like a good option," Dobson said.

Dobson and his father flew over to Austria to see the facilities and decide whether the 15 year old really wanted to play overseas and more importantly, if he was ready to live that far away from home. 

🇨 #gameday

A post shared by Noah Dobson (@n_dobson) on

The first part was easy, with Dobson describing the Olympic ice surfaces and training facilities as a hockey player's Disneyland - a fitting reference point for a teen. 

Still, making the call to move that far away was a massive one for the young player. There were perks, like living in dorms with views of the Austrian alps and making weekend trips to Switzerland, the Czech Republic and other countries that were suddenly on his doorstep. 

But there were days he couldn't communicate with his family, when his cell service would dip on bus rides through Europe and he'd miss the red dirt roads back home, but needing to be more self-sufficient helped mature him as a player and a person.

"It was tough at times being so far away… but at the end of the day it was what was best for me and really shaped me as a person and who I am today," Dobson said. "I became a lot more mature from that year and as a player it helped me develop into a better player."

MAKING MEMORIES IN THE MEMORIAL CUP:

By the time Dobson returned to play for Acadie-Bathurst - who drafted him sixth overall - the next season, he felt he had a leg up on the 16-year-old players who were living away from home for the first time. He had a solid first year in the QMJHL, with 26 points (7G, 19A) in 63 games, but took off in his second season, becoming a point-per-game blueliner with 69 points (17G, 52A) in 67 games. 

His game kept progressing throughout his second year and into the playoffs, where Acadie-Bathurst survived a first-round scare against 15th-seeded Chicoutimi but went on to win 10 straight playoff games and later dispatch the top-seeded Blainville-Boisbriand to win the QMJHL title. 

That led to a berth in the Memorial Cup, where the Titan faced off against the WHL and OHL champions and the Regina Pats. It's a hard tournament to qualify for, let alone win, but Dobson raised his game again. He recorded seven points (2G, 5A) in four games as Acadie-Bathurst won the top prize in Canadian junior hockey and he was named to the Memorial Cup all-star team. 

"On a big stage like that you have a lot of adrenaline and extra drive to perform well and obviously there's a lot of eyes on you," Dobson said. "I knew I was playing good hockey in the playoffs and my last round was probably my best round. I wanted to build off that and I played my best hockey of the year at the Memorial Cup."

Lifting the Memorial Cup and taking it back to Bathurst are memories Dobson said will stay with him forever, much like the feeling of being drafted in Dallas and attending his first Islanders camp. The memories are too hard to rank, as really, all of May and June have been something to remember. 

"It's going to be pretty special to look back on one day," Dobson said. "Obviously I'm happy to be here now and it's starting to sink in a bit as you're on the ice in Isles colors, in and around the locker room and I'm just trying to soak it all in and enjoy it all." 

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