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Nick Robertson’s strong start doesn’t mean he should be rushed back to the Maple Leafs

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Photo credit:(Photo by Steven Ellis/The Leafs Nation)
James Reeve
8 months ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs are off to a mixed start to the season, could Nick Robertson help them out?
Nick Robertson is a talented prospect in the Toronto Maple Leafs system but, at the age of 22, he has yet to claim a full-time place on the team.
Robertson’s inability to cement his place among the Leafs’ top 12 forwards is not entirely down to his own performances, as he has suffered a slew of unfortunate injuries that have prevented him from building up any level of comfort or confidence in the NHL.
Last season, Robertson played in 15 games with the Leafs but saw his season cut short after requiring season-ending surgery.
In pre-season, it was clear that Robertson had rust and was finding his way back out on the ice, scoring just one goal through five games, sporting a 5.56 shooting percentage.
A year prior, Robertson looked much more assured of himself and was rewarded early on in the year with the most NHL games of his career to date, having entered the 2022-23 campaign with nearly a point per game in the summer.
Unsurprisingly sent back to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL to continue developing and regaining his standing within the organisation, Robertson has impressed right out of the gate in the minors.
Through the opening two games, with the Marlies going 1-0-1, Robertson has two goals and five total points, registering 11 Shots on Goal, showing that he is clearly beyond the AHL level now and should receive genuine consideration for a callup from the Leafs in the near future.
But when should Robertson get his next chance to impress with the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Nick Robertson’s Toronto Maple Leafs Future

Having an extended run with the Marlies might not be the worst idea for Robertson right now.
The team’s opening five games of the season are all at home, so the Leafs will be able to keep a very close eye on his performances and he will be able to continue building hia confidence and playing valuable minutes without needing to travel away from home.
Dominating at this level can only be a positive thing for Robertson, as getting him on a hot streak could help him hit the ice running when he does eventually jump back up to the NHL.
Injuries have plagued his career so far and having a long run of playing top minutes can benefit him.
However, if results are not going the right way, with the team’s stars struggling to put up points for stretches, then there’s reason to believe he could help the Leafs early this season.
Fraser Minten’s future is looking more and more likely to be back in juniors after his nine-game audition comes to an end and there will be the need to consider what comes next when he is eventually reassigned.
Pontus Holmberg was recently called back up to the Leafs, with Minten reportedly the 13th forward for the team at practice, which would indicate the pecking order has Robertson further down due to his place being solely on the wing.
If, however, Robertson continues to put up big numbers in the AHL, it will be difficult to ignore and the Leafs may need to reconsider their lineup strategy, with William Nylander still a possibility through the middle to accomodate bringing Robertson back into the fold.
This season feels like a genuine make-or-break year for Robertson, who could still have decent trade value if he continues to perform well in the A, and it would give him the best chance of sticking around if he is able to break into the Leafs team earlier this season, fitting in before the team finds its groove and making a case for him to be given the top six minutes he needs to impress.
If the Leafs continue to play a mixed bag, currently holding a 2-2-0 record and sixth place in the Eastern Conference, then experimenting may be necessary to get things back on track, paving the way for Robertson.
No matter when he eventually does return to the lineup, it will be down to Robertson to grab the opportunity with both hands and make sure he truly becomes the NHL player his potential suggests he can be.

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