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Nick Robertson’s Done His Best: Can He Make the Maple Leafs Roster?

Nick Robertson has done things right to make the Maple Leafs roster. But Sheldon Keefe can’t just give him a job. Can Robertson earn it?

If you’re a Maple Leafs’ fan, you have to give Nick Robertson credit for trying. Certainly no one can fault his determination. In fact, Robertson’s done everything right in his quest to make the Maple Leafs’ regular season roster. The only question remains, will he be able to make that roster?

Related: Leafs and Andersen Have No Plan To Talk Contract During the Season

Nick Robertson’s Agenda Was Clear – He’s a Determined Young Player

There’s no question about Nick Robertson’s agenda. He’s made it clear from the start that, although he probably would have liked to play for Team USA in the World Junior Championship, that wasn’t his final or more important goal.

Good for Team USA to win the WJC gold medal, but that really wasn’t Robertson’s agenda. In fact, he didn’t want to be anywhere else except In training camp trying to earn his way on the Maple Leafs’ roster. He’s determined to make that happen. It’s hard not to root for a player with as much heart as this young man.

Leafs Nick Robertson Team USA

Whether Robertson makes that quest come true or not, you have to give him credit. If you’re looking for a good team player, Robertson is that person. From my perspective, he’s done everything right. In my book, he’s a keeper.

The Question Is: Can Robertson Make the Maple Leafs’ Roster Now?

If you’re a Maple Leafs fan, you have to believe that inevitably Robertson will be part – and and the main part of – the Maple Leafs roster sometime in the near future. However, for the now, the team has to believe he has at least a solid chance to make the roster. Robertson was not released to play for Team USA at the World Junior Championship, which gave him the chance to compete for the job in Toronto he really wants. 

Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs Prospect

Perhaps not playing with Team USA wasn’t his call, but perhaps it was. Speaking with other Maple Leafs’ fans, one thing some fans suggested was that Robertson really didn’t want to play with Team USA at the WJC. Instead, Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas stepped in to take the heat off of young Robertson by making it seem like a team decision rather than Robertson’s decision.

Robertson Has Impressed Head Coach Sheldon Keefe

Head coach Keefe spoke specifically about Robertson’s commitment to his goal: “He has been here in Toronto since the bubble (ended in August for the Leafs). He has been absolutely committed to make himself a better player. His experience in playing in the NHL in the bubble has him focused and primed for this camp. He knows he’s in a fight to make our team, and with how much he has put into it, I’m not so sure he would have forgiven us if we had put him in a situation where he had to miss the opportunity to compete in camp. He is as focused an individual as I’ve seen coming out of junior hockey.” (from “Not at world juniors, Robertson deserves full chance to make Leafs: Keefe,” Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun, 05/01/21).

Keefe’s comments suggest that he, too, is hoping that Robertson makes the team. However, rooting for a single player is hardly Keefe’s main job. His job is to create the best Maple Leafs’ roster from the players he has available; and, then, he must figure out how to deploy that roster in successful ways on the ice during the regular season.

Nick Robertson, Maple Leafs

In other words, Keefe’s bigger goal is to build the best Maple Leafs’ team possible for an on the ice success. He may personally hope that Robertson is part of that success; however, Keefe is not in the business of giving away jobs. He simply can’t afford to give Robertson a roster spot simply because he likes him as a young player. Robertson has to earn that spot. I, for one, hope that Robertson can and does.

A Maple Leafs Training Camp Update

As far as a camp update, in the middle of week one of the training camp Robertson – who showed himself to be a scorer when he led the CHL in goals last season with 55 goals in 46 games – started training camp on a line with Pierre Engvall and Joey Anderson. That line partnership changed recently when Alex Kerfoot was injured an Engvall took Kerfoot’s place on the third line.

Alex Kerfoot Maple Leafs
Alex Kerfoot, Maple Leafs

The prognosis is that Robertson will start the season by moving in and out of the Maple Leafs’ lineup on a game by game basis. Whatever happens, as a Maple Leafs’ fan and someone who’s followed Robertson’s career for a few years now, I have to believe that he’s part of the Maple Leafs’ long-term plans. One day, perhaps this year or perhaps not, Robertson will become a regular member of the Maple Leafs’ roster.

Related: Keefe Explains Unexpected Motive for Keeping Thornton on Leafs Top Line

Robertson Is More than a Skilled Young Player

Robertson is still young. But it looks as if he has all the tools to be an offensively-gifted and talented roster addition. Recent events, including Robertson’s determination to utilize every opportunity he has to become part of the Maple Leafs’ roster, suggest that he also has a huge heart.

That heart is an intangible that any team would want one of its main players to possess. All those intangibles wrapped up in such a diminutive package bodes well for the Maple Leafs’ roster in the near future.

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