Noah Dobson spent the first three months of his NHL career jumping up and down in the islanders' team.
They had hired their six defenders and it usually took an injury for one of them to bring Dobson to the cameo in the games. But the 19-year-old had Johnny Boychuk in his ear as his part-time driver and full-time Lockermate to help him control the process. And now that Dobson is finally getting a shot – because of Adam Pelech's Achilles injury, which will rule him out for the rest of the regular season – he has Boychuk right next to him on the ice.
"I think Johnny was really good," said Dobson on Monday before the islanders had the avalanche in the Colosseum. "He [went] through them in the early stages of his career. He's been around for a long time, 700 games, so he's a great guy for me. "
Monday was Dobson's 14th game of the season and his third game in a row. He had previously only played twice in three games in a row, both times to replace an injured Nick Leddy. His first three-game track in November was followed by seven straight scratches. This time he expects a fourth game in a row against the devils on Tuesday evening.
It's not how Dobson wanted to get his chance to play consistently, but he's not going to waste it.
"Obviously, it's hard to see a guy like Pelly, who is a big part of our team, go under," said Dobson. "But it's my job to fill out his role as best as possible and do it for him and the other guys so they can reinforce themselves."
Boychuk tries to make sure that happens. The 35-year-old had Derek Morris and Zdeno Chara as experienced mentors on the blue line when he invented the Bruins in 2009. Ten years later, Boychuk sits in her skates, reminding Dobson to keep it simple.
"Basically that's because if you try to do too much too early, especially if you haven't played a lot, it usually gets bad," said Boychuk. "If you keep it simple and then increase your confidence rather than exceeding it, it's probably a better decision."
Boychuk also offered a hand off the ice and drove Dobson around early after the 12th overall win in 2018 drove the team out of the camp before he had his own car. Boychuk is no longer Dobson's chauffeur, but he is present next to him on the island's new third pair of defenses.
The right-wing Dobson plays on the left and had an encouraging game in Toronto on Saturday, besides Kasperi Kapanen stripped through the legs with a puck at the Maple Leafs' first goal.
"It's like death and taxes in the league if you are a defender – it will happen and it happened to everyone in the league," said coach Barry Despite. "It's an experience that you don't want, but it's a necessary experience in this league. This league will humiliate you if you think you're good – and that's not the case with Noah. It was just an experience that he gets on from and that makes him stronger. It will be easy. "
Just like sitting and waiting for his shot, with the help of veterans like Boychuk on the way.
"It was definitely tough," said Dobson. "[But] it's what every young player goes through in their first year or so. So I had a lot of people to talk to and know how to deal with. It was not easy, but in the long run I think it will be the best for me. "