Few players have seen their stock rise higher in this draft than Acadie Bathurst Titan defenceman Noah Dobson. The lanky 6-foot-3 blueliner capped off a commendable regular season performance where he finished above a point per game in the QMJHL with a Memorial Cup title that flashed his two-way acumen.
Dobson’s unique package of size, speed and skill from the backend is good enough for him to check in as the 12th ranked prospect at CanucksArmy, although his position and handedness as a right-shot defenceman could mean he hears his name called much earlier than that slot.
- Age/Birthdate: 17.69/January 7, 2000
- Birthplace: Summerside PE Canada
- Frame: 6-foot-3/ 179 lbs
- Position: D
- Handedness: R
- Draft Year Team: Acadie-Bathurst Titan(QMJHL)
- Atlantic Canada Peewee AAA Championship Top Defenceman
- Hockey PEI Peewee AAA Silver Medal
- Atlantic Canada Peewee AAA Championship Top Defenceman
- Hockey PEI Peewee AAA Champions
- CHL Memorial Cup All-Star Team
- CHL Memorial Cup Champion
- Hlinka Memorial Gold Medal
- QMJHL Champion
- QMJHL First All-Star Team
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Adjusted Scoring (SEAL)
Among the second tier of defencemen — a group that includes Evan Bouchard, Quinn Hughes, Adam Boqvist and Ty Smith — it’s Dobson that stands out with his play away from the puck.
In his own zone, he does a great job of using his mobility and great reach to take time and space away from the opposition. He’s able to couple those physical traits with excellent anticipation and an active stick that enables him to jump into passing lanes to force turnovers. Down low, Dobson relies on his deft edgework to maintain a tight gap; choosing to engage the man when he sees an opportunity to use his long stick to poke the puck away. He hasn’t grown into his 6’3″ frame yet, but he’s still able to leverage it at the junior level to tangle up and negate the puck carrier in board battles and box out forwards near the goal mouth.
Many of those same skills and physical traits carry over when it comes to defending the rush. Here, Dobson reads the play well; anticipating the opposition breakout before making a decision on whether he can cut off the lane for an interception to lead a counterattack. Given the danger of overcommitting, he very rarely takes that risk, instead settling to close the gap on the expected outlet man. He combines that tight gap with his aforementioned reach to keep the forward in front of him to deny the space required to freely enter the offensive zone.
With the puck, Dobson is as good as they come with regards to transitioning play up the ice. He’s a multi-dimensional threat in transition; owning a good first-pass that’s capable of springing his teammates on the counterattack to go along with sublime skating ability that allows him to carry the puck through the neutral zone. When Dobson isn’t the one leading the breakout, he likes to activate in transition and join the rush as the second or third option. At the same time, he’s mindful of the positioning of players around him — only jumping up after assessing the risk to reward ratio. That same approach of calculating risk applies in the defensive zone, where Dobson isn’t afraid to chip the puck out for an uncontrolled exit if a safe option doesn’t materialize. It’s an assertion that’s supported by the microdata tracked by The Athletic’s Mitch Brown.
Dobson was more selective in his controlled exit attempts, resulting in a higher ratio of uncontrolled exits and a higher success rate on his possession attempts. Watching him play, it became abundantly clear that Dobson became less reliant on uncontrolled exits as the season went on. He showed more confidence in tight spaces during the second half of the year — often managing to navigate through packed defensive zone traffic with clean possession of the puck.
Moving onto the offensive side of things introduces the limitations that some have expressed with Dobson’s ceiling. The PEI native registered 69 points in 67 games, though some believe that contextual factors inflated that production. For starters, the QMJHL is weaker in competition and higher scoring in nature relative to the other CHL leagues. Secondly, he played for the Memorial Cup winning Acadie Bathurst Titan — meaning Dobson had the luxury of playing with teammates that could convert on the chances he created.
While it’s difficult to account for the quality of teammates aspect, league factors can be adjusted for using the SEAL tool.
Dobson ranks eighth among draft-eligible defencemen for points per game when sorting by SEAL.
His SEAL placement aligns well with my assessment of his offensive skills — he may not boast the same dynamic traits or creativity as some of his peers, though he possesses a respectable toolkit nonetheless.
In the offensive zone, Dobson’s contributions largely depend on the utilization of his mobility to both create and take advantage of space. When the puck is swung high to the point, Dobson often shifts laterally across the ice without the puck to create new space and lanes. Alternatively, if he receives the puck and spots an open seam, he won’t hesitate to fly down the right wing boards to capitalize on the vacant real estate. Dobson also loves to crank shots from the blueline, finishing fourth among all QMJHL skaters for shots per game. He was regularly able to beat goaltenders cleanly, especially on one-timers from the left slot on the power-play, but his shot will have to improve in terms of both power and accuracy to hold that same effectiveness at the NHL level. When he’s not shooting the puck, Dobson’s an above-average playmaker with vision capable of identifying coverage lapses in the offensive zone.
All told, Dobson is a well-rounded defenceman who offers a highly coveted and rare combination of size, skill and speed. That impressive physical package pairs with a pro-ready processing ability to make him one of the safest bets for NHL success outside of the top-5. Don’t mistake his label as a “safer” pick as a sign that he has a lower ceiling though — Dobson is just as likely to develop into a top pairing defenceman as Evan Bouchard, Adam Boqvist and Ty Smith. It’s those reasons that lead me to believe that Dobson should be ranked even higher than the 12th spot. Given teams’ penchant for right-handed defencemen that can log heavy minutes and contribute in all situations, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see another team agree with that assessment and take Dobson before he’s even made available to the Canucks at number seven.
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Rangy, mobile defender with size and strong puck skills who sticks to his opponents like velcro. Dobson is a rare specimen for a teenage defender in that he is a big-bodied puck mover with speed who plays with poise in all three zones. He is one of the QMJHL’s top scoring blueliners thanks to his ability to run a power play, dictate the tempo of a game regardless of the situation and seize opportunities that nobody else was able to identify. Dobson is a strong, agile skater with a deceptively quick first step and the ability to make sharp directional changes in open ice. Getting the puck behind pesky opponents in the neutral zone can be done with either his wheels or with hard, crisp passes, but Dobson isn’t the kind of defenseman who lets his forwards take it from there — he loves to jump into openings and create or finish from areas close to the hashmarks.
Dobson is a very strong one-on-one defender who maintains a very tight gap and is quick enough to stick with his man even after he circles the net with speed. Trying to take him wide is a decision most puck-carrying forwards end up regretting, as they either end up pasted onto the corner boards or gazing at the back of Dobson’s jersey as he powers up ice.
CanucksArmy’s 2018 NHL Draft Rankings