The Toronto Maple Leafs’ best prospect in their organization is Nick Robertson. However, that status didn’t save him from being reassigned to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies last night. Perhaps he’s not yet ready for big NHL minutes and would benefit from bigger minutes at the AHL level. Perhaps he is and is just a victim of his waiver exemption.
However, in the end, it was likely his waiver exemption that made the move easier for the Maple Leafs. Who knows? However, for whatever reason, it doesn’t change the bottom line. Robertson, probably much his displeasure, will be suiting up with the Marlies.
Make No Mistake: The Organization Sees Robertson as Special
There’s no mistake that the Maple Leafs’ front office and organizational leadership see Robertson as a special talent. It didn’t take the Maple Leafs’ director of player development Hayley Wickenheiser long to comment on Robertson this season. She did it during the first day of training camp. Out of the group of 39 prospects who were working to improve their skills and make an impression at the Maple Leafs’ development camp, she lauded Robertson’s skill set and work ethic.
Wickenheiser shared that Robertson was “special in the sense of his intensity and the willingness to want to be perfect and great in every aspect of his life…one of the secrets for him I think is to dial it back at times.”
Wickenheiser added that Robertson “has a full package of skill. For Nick, the next step is going to be being able to implement it in pressure situations and play within the game…I talked a lot with him about letting the game come to you [and] don’t force it.”
The Best Is Yet to Come When Robertson Returns
Although Robertson is likely agreed upon as the Maple Leafs’ strongest prospect, he’ll still begin the 2021-22 regular season with the AHL’s Marlies. However, depending upon what happens this regular season – including injuries – he’ll also likely see some time with the Maple Leafs during the 2021-22 season. But, when is the question.
Robertson has that hard-working, fight-for-every-puck mentality that will endear him to Maple Leafs’ for years to come. Last season, in a year plagued by injury, Robertson scored only five goals and added only nine assists (for 16 points) in 21 AHL games. He also added an assist in six games with the big team.
However, in his time in the AHL, he’d do well to work on one problem that Wickenheiser suggested he work on – and it’s one he’ll have trouble doing. Wickenheiser believes Robertson needs to learn to “dial it back” and let the game come to him. That won’t be easy for the pushy young player.
My Hope for Robertson
More than starting the season with the Maple Leafs, the one thing I hope for Robertson this season is freedom from injuries. In January last season he was sidelined with a knee injury. Later in the season, he suffered a concussion. Both injuries taken together cost him a chance to join the Maple Leafs in the playoffs. They might have used him.
Robertson didn’t go to the Marlies by himself. With him, the Maple Leafs also sent Mikhail Abramov, Joseph Duszak, Noel Hoefenmayer, Teemu Kivihalme, Jack Kopacka, and Jeremy McKenna also were moved to the AHL.
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