Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
The next few weeks will be very important for Nick Robertson
By Steven Ellis29 days ago
For whatever reason, it seems that the only person who doesn’t fully believe in Nick Robertson is Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe – and that’s the person he needs to impress the most.
I haven’t been too high on Robertson throughout most of his pro career. Even dating back to his junior days, I didn’t think he was strong enough to succeed in the NHL – and the past few were starting to prove me right.
I’m so glad to see him stay healthy and thriving this year. So much so, that’s he might even be the team’s best left winger – but Keefe isn’t playing him like one.
Through 28 games with the Leafs this year, Robertson’s 1.26 goals-per-60 rate of 1.26 trails only Auston Matthews’ 1.81 on the roster this year. He has played 18 fewer games than most of the team’s core, but with seven goals, he’s on an 82-game pace of just under 25 goals. With seven helpers, his assists-per-60 of 1.05 is good for eighth on the team, while his 2.32 points-per-60 puts him fourth behind Matthews, Mitch Marner and Max Domi.
Robertson has done an excellent job of producing with just 10:10 minutes of 5-on-5 action per game. He’s also putting up good shot volume, with 8.63 shots per 60, which is sixth among players with at least 20 games played. Robertson’s most common linemates have been Domi and Calle Jarnkrok, so it’s not like he’s producing bucketloads alongside the team’s core four.
For what it’s worth, no other left winger on this team has been more valuable to the Leafs in a per-60 run than Robertson. Not Matthew Knies, not Tyler Bertuzzi, nobody.
I know not everyone loves player cards, but this one from Andy & Rono make it clear – Robertson has been terrific this season, his best in the NHL. And he deserves a lot more opportunities to show he’s a dangerous offensive weapon that’s capable defensively while being an electric transitional player.
Robertson’s season has been all over the place. From a dominant nine-game run with the Toronto Marlies, to numerous trips to the press box, Robertson continues to find ways to bounce back and make it difficult to keep him out. The Leafs have played 12 games since the start of 2024, but Robertson has three points in just five outings while playing under 10 minutes twice. He was at his best on Wednesday when he helped set up Matthews for the game’s lone goal. It was the second time this year Robertson has registered four shots in a game, and it came after putting up three in just 8:52 of ice time against Seattle.
You don’t need to convince the average Leafs fan that Robertson has been good. But with the NHL Trade Deadline coming on March 8, Robertson could become one of the Leafs’ most interesting trade chips – especially with his value never being higher.
With the way Robertson’s playing, it doesn’t make sense to keep limiting his ice time like they are. Physically, he looks as strong as we’ve ever seen the 5-foot-10 winger, but you can’t predict injuries. I’m not sure what else Robertson needs to do, especially given he’s playing at a .5 point-per-game rate throughout all of this.
At 22 and starting to find his groove, Robertson could bring good value in a trade – but if he’s really the real deal, I can’t imagine the Leafs wanting to part with someone who could realistically challenge for a full-time top-six spot in 2024-25. But that’s logic speaking – and Robertson’s usage hasn’t always been logical.
The Leafs won’t have much time to showcase him over the next few weeks, with just the one game Saturday before the NHL All-Star Game break. There’s no shortage of teams that would be interested in Robertson’s services, and if GM Brad Treliving has to sacrifice him to bring in some much-needed defensive help, then so be it.
Regardless, the next few weeks leading up to the deadline will be interesting for Robertson. And be glad you’re not the one trying to decide what’s next for his future.
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