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Photo Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Robertson could be the top-six forward the Maple Leafs need ahead of the deadline

The Maple Leafs are reportedly shopping around for a top-six winger, but could that player already be within the organization?

Elliotte Friedman reported on 32 Thoughts this weekend that if Jake Muzzin is healthy to return, Toronto will have him back in the lineup. If that happens before the playoffs, it drastically cuts the amount of cap space the Maple Leafs can use ahead of the deadline.

With that being said, Kyle Dubas might have a decision to make — a top-six forward or a top-four defenceman — or he could move pieces out and get both, which might be the realistic option.

Looking inward, though, Toronto might already have the top-six forward they need. His name? Nick Robertson.

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When looking at that scenario with Robertson, I believe the only aspect holding the Maple Leafs back is the small sample size that the 20-year-old carries. Robertson returned to the Marlies after injury, had six points in his first seven games, and evidently looked as good as ever in the AHL.

After that stint with the Marlies, he was called up and played against Detroit on Saturday, where he looked great on the fourth line with Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds. And while the call-up may be because of the stomach bug going around the team, it’s still an opportunity for Robertson to showcase himself for a full-time spot.

It’s difficult to say, though, if he’s the right option within the top-six.

There always is an opportunity for Dubas to add via trade, but if he doesn’t want to ship out players like Justin Holl, Travis Dermott, or someone else to create cap space, it becomes more difficult for him to add. I’d say that if it seems likely that Muzzin is set to return prior to the playoffs, Robertson should get an extended look, just to see what’s there.

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That doesn’t mean Toronto shouldn’t stop looking for a top-six forward. Using Robertson as that piece going into the playoffs, though, could be a risk due to his limited time at the NHL level. There’s a possibility that the 20-year-old still might need some time in the AHL to develop a little bit more.

Really, it’s a high-risk, high-reward situation for the Maple Leafs.

They could go for that top-four defenceman that they’ve needed since Muzzin looked to be slowing down — it might be the right move. But if you think about adding both a defenceman and a forward, Toronto looks like a more complete team. I’m not sure, with Robertson’s small sample size, that he does that for the Maple Leafs just yet.

The 20-year-old clearly is good enough for the NHL with what we saw on Saturday, plus the other games that he’s played there, however, is he a fit on that line with John Tavares and William Nylander?

Some players play much better when they’re on a line with more talented teammates — Robertson could do that.

There’s plenty of factors weighing into this situation, though. Do both Dubas and Sheldon Keefe want to give Robertson an extended look? Could this really just be a call-up due to the ongoing stomach bug situation?

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Only time will tell, but if the Maple Leafs think Robertson fits as that top-six forward they need, he needs to stay up in the NHL.

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