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LEAFS PROSPECT NICK ROBERTSON FEELS READY FOR THE NHL

At 5-feet, 9-inches and 164 lbs, there's nothing large about Nick Robertson in stature, but his steadily improving on-ice game paired with his tenacity and his work ethic may prove to be huge for a Maple Leafs team that isn't exactly bursting at the seams with relentless and tenacious players.

Aside from Zach Hyman and the newly acquired Kyle Clifford and sporadic edgy outbursts from the speedy Kasperi Kapanen, the Leafs roster is relatively one-dimensional, lacking pertinacious and unrelenting players who simply just will not quit on a play, hellbent on causing fits for the opposition. Nick Robertson is one of those players. And he can also score. A lot.

While the OHL and the NHL are two very different leagues, very few people would argue that Robertson doesn't have all the tools to be able to be successful at the NHL level. In fact, most pundits have indicated that the Northville, Michigan native punches out of his weight class. Simply put, this kid is going to be a threat in any league he plays in - and he knows it.

"My eyes are on the NHL right now," Robertson toldThe Athletic's Joshua Kloke. "If I didn’t have a tenaciousness in my game, I wouldn't say I'm ready right now.”

After a respectable season that saw Robertson record 55 points in 54 games with the Peterborough Petes in 2018-19, the now 18-year-old absolutely exploded in 2019-20, registering 55 goals, 86 points and 40 PIMs in just 46 games.

"My second year, I had the pressure of the draft and the combine and interviews," Robertson said. "Whereas in my third season, I know where I am. And I know that I’m already drafted and signed. So I’m not saying I’ve got nothing to lose, but I can go out there and do my thing and be confident."

If Robertson can come into training camp and showcase the skills that made him a consistent legitimate threat for the Petes this season, he seems like a shoo-in to land a spot on the roster, given his minuscule cap hit. It's probable, though, that the diminutive forward may have to find his groove at the NHL level in a bottom-six role, which he seems alright with.

“I don’t have to be a top-six player to be effective," Robertson said. "It's not just my scoring or my playmaking. It's my tenacity. It's the way I work."

While we do not yet know what next season will look like, given the ongoing COVID-19 situation, it's safe to say that Robertson will have every opportunity to make his presence felt and earn himself a roster spot with the big club.
MIKE ARMENTI
MAY 19, 2020  (21H01)
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