Name: Noah Dobson
Team: Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
Stats: 17 goals, 52 assists, 69 points
Position: Right-handed defenseman
NHL Central Scouting Ranking: 5th (North American Skaters)
NHL Comparable Player: Alex Pietrangelo
The Dallas Stars are in a bind. They need secondary scoring. So conventional wisdom argues that they must pick a forward. Let’s dispel this notion.
Scouts judge players based on skills, yes, but when it comes to the draft, they have to look at what’s not there. Specifically, how will this player look in five years when they’re surrounded by a supporting cast in the right minutes after significant improvement? What tools do they have to reach what we think is their potential?
If you’re looking at Noah Dobson as a scout, you’re feeling warm and fuzzy. Dobson is a specimen at 6’3” and nearly 180 pounds, but he’s not just fast for a big man. He’s just plain fast. With his speed and mobility (so much so that when the CHL had their top prospect showcase, Dobson was the best backwards skater), his size is simply more pronounced rather than an asset in and of itself. From Pronman in his midseason rankings:
He shows good vision and has led the first PP unit. I like the way he skates and can activate into the attack for a big man, and with his size/mobility, he can stay with most attackers without issue.
In the Q’, Dobson accounted for 26 percent of his team’s offense. His shots on goal per game was a monstrous 4.12. That’s one of the highest in the draft, period (even more than Filip Zadina, who is a consensus second/third overall pick).
His method of offense is pretty typical of most modern offensive defensemen; with his speed, he likes to activate and join the play. He doesn’t have a booming shot per se, but like Esa Lindell, he has an accurate one, which is sometimes just as effective.
Most of the questions surrounding Dobson are his offensive upside. Having the tools for offense is not the same as being offensive. Obviously, Dobson nets a lot of points, and that’s great. But he doesn’t have quick hand speed, and in the footage I’ve drawn from, I don’t think he’s uniquely adept at finding passing lanes in multiple directions. Since I’ve already mentioned him, Lindell is again a nice point of (not comparison) reference; you would never think of Lindell as offensively limited given his 42 points his rookie year in the AHL, but at the NHL level, nobody thinks of him as an offense-driver. Of course, Dobson is a much better skater, and Lindell is a top-four defender in the NHL anyway, so these aren’t red flags either.
Now the question for fans — should Dallas pick him?
I always go back to the 2013 NHL draft. Nashville didn’t need defense when they picked Seth Jones, but they did anyway. Even if he had never developed into a critical component of their top four, he’d be pretty close to being their best — if not best — defenseman right now. He was the only reason they could eventually fill an actual need with Ryan Johansen (they did the same thing with Samuel Girard; a player they didn’t need to draft given what they need, but who became instrumental in getting Kyle Turris). The point here is that picking Dobson could turn one of Dallas’ contributing defensemen into an asset in the future. At minimum, he’d bolster a blue line that is finally starting to take shape.
Dobson has Edmonton written all over him, so he probably won’t be available. If he is, Dallas has to step outside their needs box, and simply take whoever they think is the best talent with the best potential. Depending on who’s available, Dobson will be on a very short list of the best players available in a very deep draft.