Nick Robertson is making his case to be in the Leafs’ Game 1 lineup

Photo credit:© Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
18 days ago
Nick Robertson is in a battle among the Maple Leafs’ bottom six to crack the Game 1 lineup of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. His game against the Buffalo Sabres will certainly help his case.
Robertson scored on a beauty snap shot off the rush, after a nice pass from Matthew Knies, beating Sabres’ netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen:
It was Robertson’s second goal in his last four games, as he sits with 11 goals in 49 games on the season. 10 of them have come at even strength, which is a great sign for the postseason, as power plays are hard to come by and the team is going to need secondary scoring at five-on-five.
Robertson’s been inconsistent this season, starting the season off by admitting he’s not the ‘big-name prospect’ he once was but every time he’s reinserted into the lineup and given another look, he seems to produce. The only problem is the Maple Leafs have a couple of forwards returning from injuries very soon, and the offensive-mind winger is going to be in tough to find a depth role on the playoff roster.

Robertson’s Game Doesn’t Scream Bottom Six

The Maple Leafs top-six is basically sorted with Max Domi, Tyler Bertuzzi, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander and soon-to-return Mitch Marner. With Bobby McMann also enjoying a coming-out party this season and Calle Jarnkrok returning for the playoffs, Robertson is in a major battle for ice time.
The knock on him since joining the league is that he’s a one-dimensional player. Robertson’s a shooter, he never seen a look he didn’t like and his game has a ton of defensive flaws, which is one of the many reasons he’s had a tough go gaining confidence from head coach Sheldon Keefe. Will the Leafs head coach trust him in a defensive-minded third or fourth-line role when the games matter most? At this point, it does seem unlikely.
Robertson’s battling with Matthew Knies, who has been pushed down the lineup thanks to Bertuzzi and McMann producing this season, and there’s also newcomer Connor Dewar who has a leg up on Robertson for a depth role based on the fact he can kill penalties and is much more defensively focused. Pontus Holmberg also has a leg up on Robertson based on the fact he plays centre and has the versatility to also play the wing and again, kills penalties.

Robertson Leans on Older Brother for Advice

Nick’s older brother Jason is a star in Dallas and has carved himself a top-six role in Texas. He’s already put up two 40-goal seasons and surpassed the 100-point mark last season with the Stars. While naturally they get compared, the younger Robertson is constantly seeking advice from his older brother on how to get a leg up on NHL goaltending.
After the Maple Leafs defeated the Sabres Saturday night, Robertson met with the media and once again referenced something he and his brother had been going over on shooting the puck to prepare for NHL games:
It doesn’t elevate at all. I try to shoot it on the heel because that’s where the puck won’t really elevate & … I know I can just fire it there.
Robertson can score, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s the defensive side of the puck where he needs to clean up if he’s going to play a role in the playoffs. Too many times there’s been costly turnovers or horrible reads with the puck and this type of game management is something Keefe has zoned in on this season with the young forward.
It’s crazy to think Robertson’s still just 22 years old, he’s still figuring out the NHL game as he hasn’t even played 82 career games to this point after being selected in the second round of the draft five years ago. Robertson’s hopeful these last nine games of the regular season will give him a shot to continue to prove himself to the coaching staff as there’s no doubt he’s in tough to crack the playoff roster with all the internal competition in Toronto.

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