Prediction #1: Nick Robertson Gets His Six-Game Audition and Never Leaves
After dominating the OHL in the 2019-20 season, head coach Sheldon Keefe rewarded the 19-year-old with his first taste of NHL action in the Toronto Maple Leafs return to play this past summer. Just like any teenager making their playoff debut, there were some growing pains, but even so, Robertson still showed he has taken the necessary steps in his development and proved he can handle NHL minutes.
This season, the Leafs 2019 second-round pick will be battling several new faces for a roster spot in the team’s top 12. Jimmy Vesey, Alexander Barabanov, Pierre Engvall, and Joey Anderson all figure to give Robertson the toughest competition.
Although, there is one thing working in Robertson’s favour. PNHLe, a modern analytical prospect gauging tool, is defined as:
"An offensive stat that is used to project a player’s point potential at the NHL level and is meant to standardize a variety of leagues so that prospects can be compared from one league with another. PNHLe attempts to equalize all leagues, age and positions so that the offensive potential of a prospect can easily be compared with others, while also projecting future NHL point potential in the prime years of a player (source; nhlrankking.com)."
At Dobber Prospects, their PNHLe rankings from one to five are as follows: Quinton Byfield, Alexis Lafrenière, Marco Rossi, Cole Perfetti, and Nick Robertson. Robertson ranks above 2020 13th overall pick Seth Jarvis, 24th overall pick Connor Zary, and above 6th overall pick Jamie Drysdale.
That type of talent is hard to keep on the sidelines. Keefe has the option to give Robertson his six games before the first year of his entry-level contract kicks in, but I predict his audition is going to go so well that it will force the Toronto Maple Leafs coaching staff to keep him on their roster permanently.
Prediction #2: In an All-Canadian Division, the Flames Regret Losing Brodie
The Leafs biggest offseason acquisition came in the form of inking former Calgary Flames defensemen TJ Brodie, to a four-year, $5 million AAV contract.
In a normal year, the two franchises would only face-off against each other twice. With Brodie in a different conference, the sting from recognizing the absence of their former defensemen would be minimal. Out of sight, out of mind.
However, in this unprecedented 2021 season, the Leafs and Flames are scheduled to face each other nine times. That is a lot of reminding of the days when Brodie was playing for your team instead of the opposition.
Brodie as a Flame was one of the premier two-way defensemen in the NHL. The Ontario native ranked in the 97th percentile and the 91st percentile in secondary assist and estimated shot assists rates respectively last season (stats; mapleleafshotstove.com).
But his calling card is his fantastic defensive game. Brodie’s play driving is excellent, specifically his expected goals against suppression, ranking in the 89th percentile league-wide. He also ranks in the 85th percentile in heavy ice time facing elite forwards and logs a ton of minutes in the defensive end – for his career, Brodie has started 52% of his faceoffs in the defensive end (stats; hockey-referece.com).
For what it is worth, Toronto’s best defensive defensemen, Jake Muzzin, has started 52% of his faceoffs in the defensive end in his career with Toronto. While some of the offseason moves Calgary GM Brad Treliving made were extremely positive, Flames fans are going to have trouble getting over the loss of TJ Brodie.