The goal-scoring prowess of Nick Robertson indicates that the Toronto Maple Leafs uncovered a treasure at No. 53 of the 2019 NHL Draft.
Robertson, 18, returned to the Ontario Hockey League after being drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2019-20 and cemented himself as a notable prospect by scoring at a rate not seen since 2006-07 with a pair of current NHL stars.
The second-round pick recorded 55 goals in 46 games, 1.196 goals-per-game, with the Peterborough Petes before the campaign was indefinitely postponed.
Despite being junior eligible for two more seasons, the talented winger may arrive in the NHL as soon as next season.
Toronto Maple Leafs and Nick Robertson
No OHL player in the 21st century has scored at a higher pace than Robertson did this season, including the aforementioned John Tavares (1.075) and Patrick Kane (1.069) at the height of their junior output.
The only difference being that Tavares was16-years-old at the time he recorded a 72-goal season, before becoming the league’s all-time leading goal scorer (215) two years later.
Merely 190 OHL players have reached or eclipsed the 50-goal benchmark in their respective careers. Although 91 individuals have recorded more goals in a single campaign, the Filipino-American’s season ranks seventh in goals-per-game among skaters with minimum 20-goals scored.
Robertson’s production parallels the greatest single-season Canadian Hockey League goal-scoring rates—ranking 51st all-time in goals-per-game among the three major junior leagues. Only Maxime Comtois’ 31 goals in 25 games (1.24) playing for the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs in 2018-19 ranks higher this century.
The five-foot-nine, 164-pound winger can also facilitate the offence, accumulating 31 assists this year with the Petes. In total, Robertson has amassed 174 points through 162 regular-season OHL games—77 of which are helpers.
In recent years the Toronto Maple Leafs have handled their high draft picks with extreme care and without a willingness to rush them to the pros. That philosophy may have exceptions as general manager Kyle Dubas pushes to construct the strongest roster possible under the salary cap.
Robertson didn’t get an opportunity to dawn the club’s blue and white threads during preseason action, with the team opting to evaluate some of its other prospects, but will have a chance to earn an NHL job out of training camp to begin the 2020-21 season.
Players that can provide meaningful minutes on entry-level contracts are a true market inefficiency, especially for a Leafs team that’s treading close to the salary cap ceiling.
In the annual OHL Coaches Poll, results show that other hockey minds tend to agree with the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager and his assessment of the 18-year-old product.
Robertson placed first in two respective Eastern Conference categories, including Best Shot and Most Dangerous in the Goal Area.
Coaches from around the league also voted Robertson as the second hardest worker, stickhandler, and shootout shooter from the East. The leading goal-scorer was also credited as having the third hardest shot around the conference.
It was an unfortunate end to Robertson’s season had to end early, as it leaves many to ponder how much more damage he would’ve inflicted upon opposing netminders.
Without a first-round pick in 2019, the Toronto Maple Leafs managed to land a formidable goal-scoring winger with top-six upside. Robertson can become a premier commodity as a marquee goal scorer, signed to an entry-level contract for three seasons no less.
If the Pasadena, CA, native translates his skillset to the pace of professional hockey, he’ll be an invaluable addition to the Toronto Maple Leafs talented forward depth for years to come.