The Leafs need to take a chance on Nick Robertson at some point

Photo credit:Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff
Jon Steitzer
7 months ago
Nick Robertson came on strong with 5 points in his first two games for the Marlies this season. He has since cooled to just two points in his last five. Couple the short term drop off with the fact that the Leafs current injury situation restricts the potential for a forward recall, and it is probably wishful thinking on the part of those of us who would like to get a look at one of the Leafs better offensive scoring prospects.
I can appreciate that for many there is probably a “what’s the rush?” mentality when it comes to Robertson. The Leafs top three lines are all functioning to a certain degree and the fourth line is doing what you expect fourth lines to do. You also aren’t going to recall Nick Robertson to do anything fourth line related unless Toronto suddenly went in a very different direction with that group.
The appeal, at least for me, is when you stretch to make favourable comparisons to Michael Bunting. Robertson’s game, like Bunting’s is one that lends itself to complimentary offence. There is also the fact that Robertson like Bunting has a trash talking game and a willingness to go into parts of the ice you wouldn’t expect a player of his size to go. If there is a player in the Leafs organization that could be a potential heir apparent to that role it might be Robertson. The Leafs might have initially preferred to go away from the Bunting type option on the Matthews-Marner line but given that the duo has underperformed 5v5 so far this season and hasn’t found a fit with either Tyler Bertuzzi or Calle Jarnkrok, perhaps an option like Robertson could make sense, especially since Matthews and Marner are strong enough throughout all zones to cover off Robertson’s defensive issues.
The case for Robertson is a flimsy one and having a player go from the AHL to the top line of the Leafs is certainly unconventional, especially when the Leafs have other options like Knies on their roster that could explore as the means to jump start the top line as well. Couple that with the salary cap reality keeping this from happening for the time being and Nick Robertson remains a bit of a pipedream.
The thing with Robertson is that for the Leafs to truly make a decision on him as a prospect they will need to put him in a role that he can be successful. Putting him on a more defensively deficient line like Tavares-Nylander would be a disservice to him and putting him with players like Knies and Kampf who he might not produce as well with would also hold him back.
So while he waits for a possible window of opportunity to return, Nick Robertson needs to show that he can be offence on demand. Being a point per game player in the AHL is a good sign of consistency and the fact that he has points in 4 out 7 games, with only one 2 game pointless stretch is positive. He’s continuing to be a shooter and the idea of the Leafs having another shooter to rely on so it’s not clear that Marner is always looking for Matthews would be a plus.
Whether or not Robertson is going to be in the Leafs long term plans remains to be seen. Given that he is trade value has already been called into question by his injury history and inability to stick in the NHL so far, the Leafs are better off trying to make things work with him rather than shop him for what would likely be a depth return. It is an 82 game season and getting a look at someone like Robertson early and/or often seems like it would be in the Leafs best interest.

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