Toronto Maple Leafs: Nick Robertson Not Going to WJC

Nicholas Robertson #89 of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
Nicholas Robertson #89 of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images) /

Nick Robertson will not be returning to international competition this winter. What’s next for the Toronto Maple Leafs top-prospect?

It was almost a certainty that Toronto Maple Leafs forward and top-prospect, Nick Robertson was going tobe on USA Hockey’s World Juniors Championships (WJC) roster. The United States unveiled its 25-man National Junior Team 25-man roster on Saturday morning and Robertson wasn’t on it.

As much as fans wanted the Maple Leafs to allow Robertson to play in the IIHF tournament, it appears as though they have blocked his path. This means that the 19-year-old will not get to revisit his position on USA’s top line, a role he filled at last year’s WJC.

The reason for Robertson’s omission is that the tournament overlaps with the time needed to quarantine for the NHL’s shortened training camp. Competing in international play in Edmonton, AB., would have kept Robertson off the Maple Leafs roster. That would be a clear step in the wrong direction for center and left-winger who played four games in the NHL bubble.

By skipping the WJC, Robertson is expected to be at Leafs camp and compete for a position on the team. There is no certainty that he will earn a spot. The organization likely won’t want him to be on a taxi squad, which means that he should either be trusted to play regularly with the big club or he’ll start the year playing every game for the Peterborough Petes in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).

If the OHL doesn’t start up, I wonder if he would be able to get an exception and play for the Toronto Marlies in the American Hockey League (AHL)? Current rules state that Canadian Junior eligible players must return to their junior clubs if they fail to make the NHL.

Returning to the Petes would be the worst-case scenario for Robertson. It would mean that he missed his chance to compete for a gold medal for no career gain, while playing in a league he is much too good for.

Making the NHL club will be extremely difficult. With the new additions the Toronto Maple Leafs made to their offense over the offseason, there aren’t many available spots for Robertson.

In fact, there will likely be seven forwards fighting to occupy just a few spots. Robertson, Joey Anderson, Alexander Barabanov, Pierre Engvall, Jimmy Vesey, Nick Petan, and Denis Malgin should all be at training camp trying to earn an NHL role over NHL vets like Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton and Wayne Simmonds.

You wonder if Robertson’s high ceiling, cheap contract and lack of playing options will help his cause, but at the same time, it’s always going to be hard for a rookie to crack a roster on a team trying to win the Cup.

Robertson should likely prepare himself for a return to the OHL. At this point, it’s the most likely scenario.

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Returning to the OHL would be unfortunate for Robertson. On the bright side, it could put him in line to be the first one called-up in the case of an injury. It would, however, always leave all parties and the fans wondering if skipping the WJC was the right decision.