Nick Robertson Guaranteed to Make Toronto Maple Leafs Debut Next Season

Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Nick Robertson #16 of the Peterborough Petes (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Nick Robertson #16 of the Peterborough Petes (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs new top prospect is guaranteed to make his NHL debut next season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Nick Robertson #52 overall last season.

He had 55 goals in 45 games this season playing in the OHL.

He isn’t guaranteed to be a successful NHL player, let alone next year.  He is, however, able to play in the NHL on a league minimum entry-level contract, so the Toronto Maple Leafs have to at least try to make it happen.

Toronto Maple Leafs and Nick Robertson

In the NHL, there is a salary cap.

In essence, managing the salary cap is the main job of an NHL general manager.  The only way to get an edge in a league with full parity is to find value players that other teams do not.

In hockey, the team with the best player, or the most best players, has the best chance to win.  If you can find some value in the money you spend, you can afford to acquire more of the players that actually make a difference.

The top ten 10% of NHL players affect games by a larger ranger than the bottom 90%.  (by WAR/60, GAR/60 or points).

Said another way: There is a bigger difference between Connor McDavid and the 91st best player in the NHL than there is between the 91st best player in the NHL and the worst player in the NHL.

This is a fact, and cannot be overcome.  If there was no salary cap, it would be worthwhile to pay for small upgrades.  You could pay several million dollars to get the 154th best player instead of the 543rd, and it would help you.

However, in a salary cap league, especially one where star players drive the outcome of games, it is essential to only spend money on players who are, or would at least have a chance, of being in the top 10%.

In a salary cap league where there are only marginal differences between the 91st and 900th best player, it is not a good use of your limited funds to pay for small upgrades.

This why the Leafs can’t pay Ilya Mikheyev $3.5 million per year, or why they can’t re-sign Kyle Clifford for his current salary.

When the Kings retained half of Clifford’s salary, the Toronto Maple Leafs get an above average fourth liner for the minimum price. This gives them a slight edge over almost every other team, since most teams don’t have a fourth liner as good as Clifford.

But this edge is so slight, that its easy for the risk to overtake the reward.  A team is far more likely to get a better return per dollar if they spend minimally on the bottom third of their roster and use the savings to buy a player who will make a large impact.

This also makes it extremely important to find players on entry-level deals that can make an impact.

And that is why Nick Robertson will at least get a shot at the NHL next year.  Will he be good? It is impossible to know.

The likely answer might even be that he isn’t.

But the Toronto Maple Leafs at least have to try, because the risk vs reward  is so heavily in their favor.  They try him out for nine games, and if he’s good enough, they’ve got a bonus upgrade to their roster.

With Robertson’s pedigree *(if he was 4 days younger he’d be going in the high first round of this year’s draft) he might just be able to give the Leafs a top 10% performance.

Next. Odds Leafs Could Actually get Pietrangelo?. dark

It’s unlikely, but there’s basically no risk trying.

If he’s not good enough, he goes back the minors and it won’t even cost them a year of his entry level contract.