In this year’s NHL entry draft, there are a lot of high-end defensive prospects available throughout the first round. Included in that group is Acadie-Bathurst Titan defender Noah Dobson, whose impressive offensive numbers have everyone’s attention.
He has done plenty to assert himself in a group that contains NCAA standout Quinn Hughes and the London Knights’ Evan Bouchard, all of whom could be taken within the first 10 selections.
Even if he has the offensive talent, there’s a lot more to Dobson’s game than just his points total that should be appealing to any team with a chance to snag the right-handed defender.
Birthplace: Summerside, PEI
Weight: 179 lbs.
Team: Acadie-Bathurst Titan
It’s impressive when any player, particularly on defence, manages to keep a point-per-game pace over the course of a season. It’s even more impressive when you factor in that Dobson was second on his team in scoring and played a huge role in the Titan beating out Filip Zadina and the Halifax Mooseheads for a division title.
With 69 points in 67 games, it’s obvious just how much offence runs through Dobson when he’s on the ice, even in the playoffs, where he’s collected nine points in 15 games.
Dobson’s biggest asset is his skating, and he uses his smooth strides along with great edgework to make plays happen at both ends of the ice. He’s not a small body at 6’3”, but he’s able to glide in and out of opposing teams’ defences with ease, thus allowing himself and teammates more space to try to make plays happen.
It is unusual to see this combination of size and skating ability in a prospect, and it is the primary reason why the defenceman is regarded so highly. Those are qualities that are heavily coveted in a blue-liner on their own. When they combine, they give a player a crushing advantage over opponents.
In the case of Dobson, it is simply unfair.
He has a good acceleration that enables him to reach loose pucks first. Even if he loses the race — something that rarely happens — he can plaster opponents against the boards, rendering them completely ineffective.
He pokechecks from a mile away, and this, combined with his agility and quick pivot, makes him hard to beat off the rush.
Dobson can also use his great reach to retrieve the puck on the walls while at the same time performing a lateral push away from it; both movements helping him avoid getting pinned down in a tight spot while he tries to break out. It makes him a slippery player to check despite his stature.
Added to that, Dobson can save his team on the backcheck when things turn sour in the offensive zone. He can catch most forwards in a straight line, level with them, gain body positioning, and force them off the puck.
Dobson could improve his reads and passing ability even further to bring his defensive and transition games to the next level, but he already fares well in those aspects with the tools he has and his great positioning. Given time, he should gain the ability to turn defence into offence in an instant.
And the defenceman's appeal doesn't stop there.
To say he’s a threat in the offensive zone would be doing Dobson a disservice. His mobility makes him the focal point of the Titan attack, and his awareness allows him to read opposing defences. He can also come down from the blue line to create more space for his teammates and get a closer look at the net to use his shot.
He can operate with the puck anywhere in the offensive zone, and, while not his only asset, he has had little issue using both his snapshot and a bomb of a slapshot to put pucks in the back of the net.
He can be a good playmaker, and has shown that he is able to play off the fact that opponents have to respect his release to create passing lanes to teammates. By faking a shot, he can manage to slide the puck over to his forwards in the slot for great scoring chances.
The one knock on Dobson's offensive game is that he sometimes rushes his next play or fumbles the puck under pressure. But his handling abilities have already improved in his time with Acadie-Bathurst, and, like in the clip above, he has displayed some impressive one-on-one abilities at times. He has an understanding of how to shake opponents off of him, and with more consistency his already high point total could skyrocket.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Future Considerations: #10
NHL Central Scouting; #5 (NA Skaters)
ISS Hockey: #8
It’s easy to see Dobson’s abilities on the ice and be swayed into believing he isn’t a reach for the Montreal Canadiens at third overall. It’s also not a knock on the abilities of Dobson to say that he shouldn’t be picked at third overall.
He’s an extremely talented prospect who will likely be gone somewhere in the top 10 this year, meaning if Montreal truly wants him, their best bet is to trade down. This would mean passing up better players in order to fill an organizational need, and in the early stages of the draft, a team should be aiming for the best player overall.
The other issue is that he’s a right-handed defender, and the Canadiens are much more set on that side than the left for the foreseeable future with Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, and Noah Juulsen already in the organization.
Dobson is a phenomenal asset on defence, and if the Canadiens weren’t picking in the top three it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him donning the CH on draft day. As it stands though, the fit isn’t quite there for where the Habs are selecting.