The Toronto Maple Leafs problem of not being able to develop a star player outside the top ten in the draft is going to be over soon.
And – not uncoincidentally – the Toronto Maple Leafs 54 year Stanley Cup drought will soon be over too.
While not every Leafs problem can be traced back to their problem developing a star outside the top ten, doing so would certainly cover a lot of warts. If you look at the teams who dominated for long stretches in the salary cap era so far (Detroit, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, San Jose, LA, Chicago, Tampa, Boston) their common denominator was that they all found superstar players outside the top ten. An unexpected star would make the Leafs exponentially better.
If the Leafs don’t lead the NHL in the number of star players on their roster, they are right up there. If you were to add in a star turn from say Rasmus Sandin or Nick Robertson, they’d be damn near unstoppable.
Expect it to happen soon, because Nick Robertson is not going to be on the Marlies for long.
Toronto Maple Leafs and Nick Robertson
Here are four quick reasons that Nick Robertson will become a star player in the NHL:
- Elite Shot
- Every player in the OHL to score a goal per game as an 18 year old since 1990 has a 40 goal NHL season.
- Incredible work ethic
- Scored a playoff goal in the NHL three months after being the youngest player drafted in his cohort.
- Almost scored a point per game in the AHL when under normal circumstances he’d still have been in junior.
Robertson would have been a top ten pick the year after he was actually drafted, had he been born three days later. That he wasn’t is going to be to the Leafs eternal benefit.
Desperate to make the Toronto Maple Leafs out of camp this year, he impressed everyone by destroying Mitch Marner in an intra-squad game, and by all accounts making it difficult to cut him.
The fact is, with so many veterans signed to one-way contracts, the players who can be sent down without waivers faced extremely long odds at making the Toronto Maple Leafs out of camp this year.
The Leafs have a ton of fringe NHL players who they will give opportunities to in order to try and find that fabled “diamond in the rough.” The attrition rate for these players is huge, and while the Leafs may very well find a solid player, it is highly doubtful that all of Nick Ritchie, Michael Bunting, David Kampf, Wayne Simmonds, Pierre Engvall, Adam Brooks, Alex Kerfoot, or Ilya Mikheyev play well enough to get regular minutes as the season goes on.
No doubt some of them will – but some of them will also falter; some will get injured.
And when that happens, Nick Robertson will be ready, and once he’s in the lineup, he likely won’t relinquish his spot easily.