Welcome to A Deeper Look, a series of articles where I take a deep dive into a random Toronto Maple Leafs topic and share my opinion with readers.
Today I’m going to break down Toronto Maple Leafs top prospect Nick Robertson’s game against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night. This was, realistically, the first opportunity we have had to see Robertson play top six minutes at the NHL level, even if those minutes were indeed limited over the course of the game.
A little context as to why this game was so important to somebody like me. I record Leaf games for video analysis, and it’s been almost impossible to get good video of Robertson at the NHL level.
In the last two years, Robertson has played in 10 regular season games and 4 playoff games, averaging 9:25 and 12:15, respectively, of ice time.
His most common linemates in the regular season have been Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds, both this year and last year, and this is after factoring in his minutes with Tavares and Nylander from Saturday.
His most common linemates during his brief stint in the 2019-20 playoffs were Kerfoot and Kapanen, which is a slight upgrade in a 3rd line role, but it was still 4th line minutes. It’s not providing much of an offensive opportunity for a guy that scored 55 goals in junior.
There are a lot of fans that have been calling for Robertson to make the Leafs out of training camp and play in a top 6 role in the NHL. There are two issues with that.
First, Robertson is very young. It seems as though he’s been in the system developing for a long time, and he kind of has, but he’s still only 20 years old. Most prospects don’t get full-time roles with an NHL team as a 20-year-old, and Robertson was drafted 53rd overall, so he’s doing just fine with regards to a development timeline.
Second, he’s missed a lot of hockey because of injuries. A knee injury last year and a broken leg this year, both of which have combined to cost him roughly 14 weeks of game action. That is a lot of missed time for a player so young.
All of which brings me back to the reason I am excited about the video footage from Saturday’s game, all 11:16 of it, woo-hoo! But hey, those minutes were with Tavares and Nylander, so he did get opportunities to play with pace and skill.