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Robertson Should Get Crack At Top Six Spot

July 13, 2024, 4:04 PM ET [1 Comments]
Mike Augello
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The trade request of winger Nick Robertson could simply be a reflection of the 22-year-old’s frustration at how he has been utilized since being selected in the second round of the 2019 NHL Draft. The younger brother of Dallas winger Jason Robertson has yet to put it all together as a member of the Blue and White, and may not before the organization moves him out, but if he is dealt it may be one of those moves that they later regret.

After being selected 53rd overall in Vancouver, the speedy winger doubled his goal-scoring total and led the OHL in goals with 55 for the Peterborough Petes. In the playoff pandemic bubble, the Leafs opted to use the then 19-year-old in four games in the preliminary round against Columbus, where he scored his first professional goal.

The next three seasons have been an aggravating series of untimely injuries that limited the California native to 82 games, prompting understandable questions of whether the 5’9”, 178 lb. winger was big enough and durable enough to be a full-time player. That was not the case last season, where the young scorer was not injured, played only nine games with the Toronto Marlies, and took advantage of limited ice time, scoring 14 goals in 56 games averaging 11:23 per game, and playing mostly third and fourth line. In the playoffs, Sheldon Keefe did not show a lot of trust in Robertson, playing him only in spot duty. He averaged less than 10 minutes per game, topping only Ryan Reaves in ice time, and was scratched in favor of Noah Gregor in Game 7.

The issue with Robertson is he has a top-six skill set, but has only been given brief glimpses at playing with an offensive playmaker like John Tavares because of his size and defensive liabilities. With the departure of Tyler Bertuzzi, the Leafs have a weakness on the left side. New head coach Craig Berube could shift William Nylander from right wing to the left side (as Keefe did at times) if Mitch Marner stays and with Max Domi returning, but if they choose to keep Nylander, Marner, and Domi on the right side, the group at left wing will be Matthew Knies, Bobby McMann, Calle Jarnkrok, Robertson, and possibly Connor Dewar.

Knies is a shoo-in based on his growth as a rookie and in the playoffs to play either with Tavares or Auston Matthews, but there have to be questions about McMann’s viability to play higher in the lineup, based on his injury issues. Robertson showed in his limited ice time last season that he can score and could score much more if given the chance on a top line.

He is currently a restricted free agent and has little leverage to force his way out of Toronto, so the only way he is dealt is if another club gives the Leafs a young prospect of equal value or if they help replenish Toronto’s sorely lacking draft capital, but before they risk trading a valuable player away, Berube should investigate whether Robertson could be a potential answer in a scoring role.


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