At the start of the 2022-23 season, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Nick Robertson came to training camp with a chance to make the team. He impressed everyone with his play. That positive impression lasted well into the preseason. When preseason was over, Robertson ended up being one of the leading preseason scorers in the NHL.


Robertson Still Has More to Learn

That success doesn’t mean that Robertson won’t have more to learn as a young player. And, that learning path can sometimes be difficult. Sadly for Robertson, early in the season, he got caught in the numbers. Because he was waiver-exempt, he didn’t make the Maple Leafs’ roster. He was moved down to the Toronto Marlies. 

Nick Robertson, Maple Leafs

The situation was transparently discussed by the organization. The fact is that another young player, Denis Malgin, also had a successful preseason. But there was one difference. Malgin was not waiver-exempt. Had the Maple Leafs tried to sneak him through waivers, the legitimate fear was that the team would lose him.  

When Robertson Was Called Up to the Maple Leafs, He Played Well

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective), Robertson was called up to the big club when injuries allowed the space. He was put on the second line and immediately made an offensive impact. Against the Dallas Stars, he scored two goals including the overtime winner. 

But life has been up and down for Robertson since that game. He still has an offensive upside – he has one of the hardest shots on the team. There’s also no arguing about his competitive level when he’s on the ice. No one works harder.

However, Robertson is a rookie. And similar to all rookies, there are still things to learn.

Related: How Will the Maple Leafs Survive Morgan Rielly’s Injury?

Robertson Is In and Out of the Lineup

That’s where we are today with Robertson. He was a healthy scratch for several games, tonight he’s starting against the New Jersey Devils. The Maple Leafs will try to end the Devil’s 13-game winning streak on New Jersey’s home ice. 

Yesterday, Robertson was interviewed about his season and what it means to be in and out of the lineup. Sometimes he’s a healthy scratch, sometimes he’s not. It has to be difficult for a young player who keenly seeks to play.

Robertson spoke about that very topic in the video below. As it stands, Robertson wants to play, but he admits he’s also learning all he can from just being in the NHL and hanging out with the rest of the Maple Leafs’ players and staff.

Robertson doesn’t like his situation and hates (although he doesn’t use that word, you can just tell by listening to him) being a healthy scratch. However, he recognizes that’s the situation he’s in right now.

He plans to just keep working hard, and also to take advantage of being around the team soaking up everything. He believes this atmosphere and his learning opportunity can be translated onto the ice when he plays.

Seven Points Robertson Made About His Situation

In listening to Robertson talk about his situation, I learned a few things about the young player. First, he’s determined to make the most of the situation. He might not like it; and, in a similar situation who would? However, he’s pragmatic. 

Robertson knows he has to go through this to get to where he wants to eventually be. He wants to be a full-time player on this roster. He’s not going to whine. Instead, he’s going to take things as they come and make the most of them. 

Listening to what Robertson said, I was able to discern seven key points during his interview.

Point One: He’s Built a Narrative that Helps Him

Robertson does engage in self-talk. He’s built a narrative about his situation of not being in the lineup. As he admitted, he has “to stick to that story.” I get the feeling that he’s not going to allow negativity to fester. 

 Point Two: Robertson Is Going to Continue to Work Hard

As I noted, no one can question Robertson’s competitive level or work ethic. He’s just going to “keep working hard and doing what I can do. I can’t stress about what I can’t control.” In that, Robertson shows maturity.

Point Three:  Robertson Will Accept the Situation for What It Is

As Roberson noted, this is “just a situation I’m going through.” But you can tell he doesn’t like it. He specifically noted how the “beginning of this season turned out.” He was also clear “hopefully that doesn’t happen again in the future.” It was obvious the start of the season was hard on him.

Point Four: Robertson Will Learn from Other Players’ Experiences

During the interview (and I admit I didn’t hear the question exactly so I don’t know who he was asking about – I think it was Denis Malgin), Robertson noted that one of his teammates had shared his similar experience, but is he’s now having a successful season. 

Nick Robertson, Maple Leafs

Robertson noted that this teammate “had been in the same situation as a 21-year-old was scratched on and off.” He noted that, because “he’s been in the same situations as mine, I kind of learned watching him being scratched and everything.”

Point Five: Robertson Sees Benefits, Even When He’s Not Playing

Robertson cited his head coach Sheldon Keefe’s comments about the benefits of being with the big club, even if he wasn’t playing. Specifically, he noted “Like Keefer said, there are benefits (to staying in the NHL) and “the paychecks are nice.” [By the way, Robertson is paid $775,000 with the Maple Leafs and $70,000 with the Marlies.]

Point Six: Robertson Knows He Can Learn from His Situation

Robertson noted there are things he can learn from “being around this atmosphere and learning even away from the rink.” He was learning that “all things that are done are important and they carry onto the ice.” As a result, he sees benefits even if he’s not playing.

Point Seven: Robertson Wants to Play; Still He’s Still Learning

Robertson was clear about what he wants when he noted “Not that I don’t wanna be playing.” But he noted that, even when he isn’t playing, he was learning. Specifically, he noted that “you get comfortable with the guys and the staff.” And he appreciates that comfort level. 

The bottom line is that Robertson accepts but doesn’t like where he is. That said, he’s making the most of it and hopes his in and out of the lineup doesn’t happen again next season.

Related: Maple Leafs Ice Strange Defensive Lineup for Devils Tonight

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