With Nick Leddy being dealt to the Red Wings, the Islanders now have a hole on their blue line they have yet to fill. But don’t worry Isles fans… his replacement might be a lot closer than we all think.
Who might this replacement be, you’re wondering? A lot of fans might instantly look at the depleted free agency market for this answer, while some might take their thoughts to the trading block. Well, what if I told you that Leddy’s replacement is already an Islander? That’s the case here.
His name is Noah Dobson.
The idea that Dobson could replace the offense Leddy contributed last season shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. Starting out with the obvious, it would make sense to simply play Dobson (a solid offensive defenseman) in an elevated role rather than giving up assets in a trade, or dishing out big bucks to free agents. After playing sheltered minutes in 2019-20, Dobson broke onto the scene this past season and really established himself as a mainstay on the third pairing alongside veteran Andy Greene. Even though it was only his second NHL season, the 2018 first rounder put up 11 assists and 14 points in 46 games, improving on his rookie season by a decent margin (six assists, seven points in 34 games).
Dobson was solid in the playoffs as well. It’s important to note that he appeared in just one playoff game in the 2020 bubble, coming in an elimination game (Game 6 of the East Final). Why was it necessary to mention that tidbit of information, you might be asking? Well, it’s because Dobson played 19 playoff games in 2021, in another run to the conference final. He may have only posted seven assists in those games, but that games played statistic isn’t just some “throwaway”.
The fact that Dobson — 21 years of age during this past postseason — served as a regular under a head coach in Barry Trotz that loves icing veteran-laden lineups in the playoffs says a lot.
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) March 5, 2021
Outside of the statistical side of things, Dobson and Leddy play very similar styles. Both players are smooth skating defensemen with a knack for putting up points. Both are also capable of serving as the quarterback on the power play, although Dobson hasn’t had a ton of chances to prove himself with Leddy, Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews often getting that role more often through his two seasons with the Isles. Another bonus, though is that if Dobson were to move up into the top-four and take Leddy’s place (alongside Scott Mayfield), it would keep the defense pairing pattern of one player being more offensive-minded, and the other a defensive-minded (take Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock as an example).
At the end of the day, the similarities between Dobson and Leddy are there. The switch definitely makes sense, but Dobson has a bit of growing to do before he blossoms into a consistent 30-40 point blueliner like Leddy was.
With that said, playing in an increased role and getting more time on the power play could boost those numbers rather quickly, and make the Leddy trade look like the right move. The switch seems obvious on paper, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens as training camp rapidly approaches.
Follow Carter on Twitter at @cbentivenga14