The Maple Leafs called up a few players from the Toronto Marlies, but that list didn’t include Alex Steeves, Pontus Holmberg, or Adam Gaudette.
I think it’s worth beginning with the obvious: Nick Robertson had an incredible training camp on all accounts and should’ve began the season in the NHL, if not for being waivers exempt.
Throughout the two games he played with the Marlies this past weekend, you could clearly see Robertson’s beginning to outgrow the AHL. Whether it be his shot selection, how he’s used, or just overall confidence, the 21-year-old seems to have gotten to another level.
But I should say that if he doesn’t have success in the NHL right out of the gate, he’s not a bust or anything of that matter. There’s a lot of hype around him and there certainly should be, but it’s worth remembering that Robertson is still only 21.
There’s a lot of time for him to grow and become the player everyone thinks he can be.
“Nick has put himself on the cusp of being a full-time NHLer and having a long NHL career because of the talent that he possesses, the work ethic that he has, his ability to score goals,” said Marlies GM Ryan Hardy last Wednesday. “Obviously we’d be lying to ourselves if we said there wasn’t disappointment for him to not be in the lineup last night (in Season Opener) for the Leafs and to be back here.
“But there’s so much opportunity for him. He’s right there and I’m confident that the next time his opportunity comes in the NHL, that it might be the last time we see him here.”
The reality of the situation right now is that Robertson had a better training camp than players like Holmberg, Steeves, and Gaudette. It’s not to say they won’t get their chances because I expect they will, but for now Robertson has been the better player.
Add that with the Wayne Simmonds situation and the need for an extra defenceman up, it all makes sense.
When it comes to the three players I just named, though, I’m not sure there’s any type of rankings in terms of who might get called up next. Each has a different role within the organization.
Gaudette is a right-shot who can play centre and the wing. Steeves is a left-winger who brings a lot of speed, physicality, and has a good shot. Holmberg is a great two-way centreman who can bring plenty of different tools to the table.
Different situations will likely determine who gets called up. Let’s say hypothetically that David Kampf gets injured, maybe the Maple Leafs recall Gaudette or Holmberg. Zach Aston-Reese hurt? I’d say that’s Steeves’ music, unless Robertson is already up.
This is an 82-game season for the Maple Leafs, though, and there’ll definitely be more call-ups in the future. It’s just right now — in this very moment — Robertson outdueled the rest of the field.
Steeves, Holmberg, and Gaudette will all get their chances. They might just have to wait a little bit longer to receive it.