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Maple Leafs’ Head Coach Sheldon Keefe’s Four Goals for Nick Robertson

Toronto Maple Leafs young prospect Nick Robertson might draw into the Senators’ game tonight. What goes does his coach have for him?

During a recent Sportsnet interview, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe was speaking about young Nick Robertson’s first start of the season tonight against the Ottawa Senators. Keefe spoke about Robertson’s hard work during the offseason and suggested that he had a number of goals for his young prospect.

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In the Sportsnet video included in this post, Keefe speaks about what he’s looking for Robertson to show as his improvement over the offseason. Chief among those improvements was his play away from puck. That, for Keefe as a coach, would allow Robertson to show the growth he’s made and to prove himself during his season’s debut.

Keefe’s Goals for Nick Robertson

During the Sportsnet interview, Keefe outlined the following four goals for his young prospect.

Goal #1: Make an Impact on Every Shift

Keefe suggested that Robertson has shown growth since his games in the bubble and that he’s (Keefe) really just looking for him to make an impact on each shift that he gets. For Keefe, that’s the biggest goal. However, Keefe notes that Robertson has the ability to do that. Even in the bubble, he showed flashes of that ability.

Goal #2: Show Improvement and Play Better Away from the Puck

Keefe believed that probably Robertson’s biggest area of improvement so far was his skill to play better away from the puck. Keefe’s assessment suggests, however, that Robertson is good when he’s on the puck. However, like many young NHL players, he needs help learning how to expend his energy away from the puck.

Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs Prospect

During the bubble, when I watched Robertson play, I thought he wasted too much energy and effort being physical on players who had just got rid of the puck. Certainly, it’s good to finish one’s checks, but Robertson seemed to do that to a fault. The result of such plays was that he wasn’t getting back into the play quickly enough and got caught too many times out of defensive position.

Overcoming that fault, to me, seems more a matter of experience and coaching. There’s no doubt that Robertson, who has a tremendous work ethic, can soon learn to make better decisions about how to expend his energy on the ice. He’ll never be huge and strong, but he could be compact and strong. The NHL is filled with small, strong, smart, successful players. And, that should be Robertson’s goal moving forward into the future.

Keefe noted that learning to be better away from the puck is something that will take some time to come to Robertson; however, it’s an area where the organization is certainly working with him to develop that particular area of skill and hockey IQ.

Goal #3: Handle the Physicality and the Strength of NHL Defenders Better

Keefe noted that he would like to see just how much Robertson’s developed from a strength perspective over the offseason. Keefe was clear that he knew Robertson had put in a lot of work in that area. Now he just needs to show he can better handle the physicality of the NHL and the strength of the defenders he’ll play against each game.

Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs

Keefe knew that the area of Robertson’s strength was a big area he took out of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ series. In fact, he believed that was the one area that gave Robertson his biggest struggles as a developing young player.

Goal #4: Turn His Energy and Confidence into Successful NHL Play

Although Keefe did not say this specifically, it certainly could be inferred from his overall conversation during the interview. He lauded Robertson’s energy and confidence; and, by his comment, Keefe seemed to suggest that it was simply a matter of time before the youngster put all this work together to become a star in the NHL.

As a result, the last goal that Keefe hinted that he had for Robertson was that he’s able to pull all these areas together so that he will become not only a contributing member of the Maple Leafs’ roster but a star player within the entire NHL.

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Robertson’s Growth Is Coming, Is It this Season?

Given what we’ve seen from Robertson so far, I have to believe that goal is something the Maple Leafs are taking for granted – sooner or later during Robertson’s career.

Maple Leafs fans will be interested to see how Robertson – should he get on the ice – will expend that energy and confidence against the Senators. I’m hoping he isn’t watching from the press box.

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