Although I am a Nick Robertson fan, I think the writing is on the wall. I want him to be an NHL player, and I want him to be on the Toronto Maple Leafs roster. However, I just don’t think this is the season he’ll do that. And, perhaps that’s best for him in the long run.
My call is that he will be moved to the Toronto Marlies in a few days. Given all the work that he’s done and the injuries and frustration he’s had to have faced, it has to be disappointing. How much so depends upon him.
In this post, I’m going to share what I believe are three reasons Robertson will be moved to the Marlies.
Reason One: There are Limited Roster Spots on the Maple Leafs
With this preseason’s roster moves and signings, Robertson faces tough competition for a spot on the Maple Leafs roster. While many fans believe he’s ready for the NHL, the team’s current lineup suggests otherwise.
Several other players, including Noah Gregor, are vying for positions, and the team needs to consider players who require waivers to be sent down. Just like last season, when Robertson had a really fine preseason but was sent down, he doesn’t need waivers. Look for the team to prioritize other players initially.
Reason One: Robertson Has Had an Inconsistent Offensive Impact This Preseason
Despite Robertson’s reputation as an offensive force with a deadly shot, his NHL career hasn’t lived up to expectations in terms of offensive production. His individual expected goal rate at 5v5 is currently lower than many teammates. This fact indicates a struggle to create quality scoring chances for himself.
There’s no doubt that Robertson did improve last season when he returned from his injury. That said, he has a lot of catching up to do. He still falls short of being a dominant offensive force. He likely needs a chance to play big minutes in the AHL where he can refine his offensive skills and get back to being the sniper he once was with the Peterborough Petes.
Reason Three: Robertson Needs to Learn to Use His Strengths
Robertson’s biggest asset is his rocket shot. But he needs to learn how to use it effectively in the NHL. Currently, I believe he spends too much energy trying to be an all-around player, often engaging in board battles and physical play that doesn’t fully leverage his strengths.
While he needs to be given credit for buying into the Maple Leafs team defensive system, he’s a goal scorer first. Get free and shoot!
To maximize his goal-scoring potential, he should study elite snipers (he has one on his team in William Nylander). Robertson needs to develop better positioning to get open shots and trust his teammates to set him up for scoring opportunities. As I noted, this development process might be best suited for the AHL, where he can receive more playing time and practice these adjustments.
The Bottom Line
My call is that Robertson is likely to start with the Marlies this season. It will help him address his deficiencies and fine-tune his game. He isn’t without skills, but his injuries and surgery have put him behind. He needs a space to catch up.
Assuming Robertson can refine his offensive game and learn to make better use of his shot, he will position himself for a more impactful role with the Maple Leafs in the future.