Noah Dobson had a lot on his mind at this point last year.
He had just helped the Acadie-Bathurst Titan win a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League title, but still had the challenge of trying to help them win a Memorial Cup as a highly touted prospect ahead of the NHL Draft.
The now 19-year-old defenceman accomplished all of the above and was later selected 12th overall by the New York Islanders.
Fast forward to this year and Dobson is back at the Canadian major junior championship with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and is feeling a lot lighter.
“It’s been a little less stressful I find this year,” Dobson says. “I’m already drafted, I’m already signed, so now it’s about going to play my game, not focusing on the draft list or the draft interviews or that whole process.”
But things haven’t slowed down for the Summerside, P.E.I., native since last June.
He signed with the Islanders, attended their training camp, played for Canada at the World Junior Championship and then was dealt to the Huskies shortly after.
Dobson calls it a “dream come true year.”
“Coming into the season not really sure what to expect, having the opportunity to go back to another Memorial Cup with another President Cup championship … pretty grateful to be in the situation I am,” he says.
Rouyn-Noranda is pretty grateful as well.
Dobson has excelled since arriving and the team lost only once in regulation between January and the end of the regular season. He put up 29 points in 20 games during the President Cup playoffs and played a big part as the Huskies defeated the Halifax Mooseheads in six games to win the league title. He earned the Guy Lafleur Trophy as post-season MVP for his efforts.
Boos have filled Scotiabank Centre every time Dobson has touched the puck so far at the 2019 Memorial Cup and they’re sure to be amplified when Rouyn-Noranda (1-1) takes on the host Mooseheads (2-0) on Wednesday.
After being held off the scoresheet in the Huskies’s opening game, Dobson broke through with an impressive performance both offensively and defensively in a 6-3 win over the Prince Albert Raiders. He finished with a goal, assist and plus-one rating.
Rouyn-Noranda head coach/GM Mario Pouliot, who coached Dobson with the Titan, says Dobson has had a huge impact on the team since joining them in early January.
“We were looking to improve our D core and for us, it was a must to get the best on the market and it was Noah,” he says.
“For me, he’s the best player in the Q. It was our first target.”
Early May will always hold a special significance for Dobson, who lost his grandfather David LeBlanc to multiple sclerosis at the age of 53 in 2004. Dobson wears No. 53 in honour of LeBlanc and has found playing success on May 11 — the anniversary of his death.
In 2018, Dobson scored the winning goal against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in Game 5 of the QMJHL final to put Acadie-Bathurst up 3-2 in the series.
This year, he helped the Huskies capture the league title on the same day.
He says it was special for him to accomplish the feat.
“It’s kind of unique how things work out like that,” Dobson says. “He’s pretty special to me and I honour him by wearing 53 so that’s pretty cool how it’s not only a coincidence but how things work out sometimes.”
Having gone through the Memorial Cup once before, Dobson says he’s a lot more comfortable this year. He felt as though he put a lot of pressure on himself during the 2018 playoffs with all the expectations on him.
Dobson’s smooth skating is hard to miss on the ice and he makes smart plays both with and without the puck. He also displays leadership qualities and was Acadie-Bathurst’s captain before the deal to Rouyn-Noranda.
Eleven players have previously won consecutive Memorial Cups with different franchises and Dobson said winning another title would be both special and surreal.
“I don’t think there’s too many guys in junior hockey that have had the opportunity to win one Memorial Cup, let alone two,” he says.
“This year being in the Maritimes and a little closer to home I have lots of friends and family there. So it’s going to be a fun tournament.”