TORONTO — Nick Robertson is able to go once more.
After one other yr that noticed accidents gradual his ascent, the 21-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs prospect was again flying across the ice on the Ford Efficiency Centre in Etobicoke, Ont., on Wednesday making ready to swimsuit up for yet one more prospect match in Traverse Metropolis, Mich., this week.
Robertson is making ready for one more bid to turn out to be the Maple Leafs’ x-factor.
“It’s simply one other alternative to get some recreation reps,” Robertson stated after follow wrapped up. “I feel I’ve been off about three months or so, and I undoubtedly need to be in recreation form when it actually issues, going into pre-season and going into camp with the Leafs.”
The 2019 second-round decide has little to show in opposition to his fellow blue-and-white prospects, his true competitors set to take the ice at that most important coaching camp down the road. However Robertson is well-aware of the eyes that will probably be on him in Traverse Metropolis watching to see how he handles his function as a veteran teen.
“It’s undoubtedly [about] enjoying the precise approach. I’m undoubtedly going to play much more minutes, be counted on in additional of a management function now,” he stated of his targets for the match, which runs Thursday to Monday. “I undoubtedly need to put that expectation and strain on myself to do effectively and play effectively.”
For assistant coach Manny Malhotra, who’s set to function head coach for the Traverse Metropolis match squad, it’s exactly these forms of packing containers he and his employees will probably be anticipating the younger Maple Leafs to test.
“The large factor for us in camp is we need to see their aggressive nature,” Malhotra stated. “How are they going to compete? Have they got the power to problem for spots? Do they take the knowledge and apply it instantly in video games? It’s that hockey IQ. We’re in search of them to carry out at their greatest and to point out us what they’re able to doing.”
As for Robertson, Malhotra stated the younger winger’s need to seek out progress in Traverse Metropolis has been clear already.
“Simply seeing him on Day 1 and the final couple days, he’s ready himself effectively. He appears sharp,” the coach stated. “You’ll be able to see that he has the starvation to need to carry out and succeed along with his targets this yr. My function on this Traverse Metropolis camp is to greatest put together guys like him, guys like Alex Steeves — guys that want to make that subsequent step — simply be sure they’re prepared for most important camp and to carry out at their greatest.”
It’s been an low season of toil and progress for Robertson after a 2021-22 marketing campaign that noticed him battle extra accidents, produce at a point-per-game tempo over a 28-game stretch with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies final season, and tally his first NHL common season objective throughout a 10-game run with the large membership.
Along with his talent out on the sheet already plain, the work this summer time was concentrated within the gymnasium.
“Getting larger and stronger,” he stated of his low season focus this time round. “I feel I’ve gotten a bit of thicker within the legs and the higher physique, engaged on being secure on the ice. … At one level in the summertime I used to be weighing about 185, after which I form of simmered down. I feel the primary focus typically as a smaller man is you’ve bought so as to add weight, however I feel for me, I simply added thickness, I added extra basis.
“I did higher in my bike check than I’ve ever executed earlier than, so my numbers have undoubtedly considerably gone via the roof.”
As he appears to take the following step in his profession, there could also be no higher mentor for younger Robertson than the person who will lead the bench for this four-game slate in Traverse Metropolis. Who higher to be taught from than a former first-round decide who himself needed to grind via some gradual begins within the huge leagues, some months down within the minors, earlier than turning himself into an on a regular basis NHLer — and sticking there for 16 years?
Few have a greater understanding than Malhotra of the necessity to push, develop and adapt to lastly discover a approach into that coveted life out on the ice, underneath the lights. And the important thing to unlocking that subsequent step, in Malhotra’s view, is about greater than merely stacking highlight-reel performs.
“Clearly everyone that’s coming to camp has the power to play hockey very well,” the coach stated with a smile. “So I feel the most important factor for being a professional can be consistency. Simply sustaining that stage of professionalism, that peak efficiency stage, on a day-to-day foundation, and never having these valleys and peaks in the way in which you play, primary.
“Quantity two would simply be understanding the sport — making use of programs, positionally being in the precise place on the proper time, and making the performs that you simply’re anticipated to make.”
Robertson will get one other likelihood to show he can carry that consistency, that pro-level consciousness, beginning Thursday, when Toronto’s prospects will face the Dallas Stars’ younger weapons. Matchups in opposition to prospects from the St. Louis Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Crimson Wings will comply with, earlier than the 21-year-old can transfer on to Toronto’s most important camp, and into the pre-season.
Whether or not this month-long stretch ends with Robertson nonetheless in a Maple Leafs sweater or one other journey again to the AHL, he’s holding his focus solely on the method.
“I feel, for me, it’s simply doing what I can and simply enjoying the way in which I can,” he stated of the trail forward. “I do know I’m assured in myself, that I’m that calibre of participant.”
Maple Leafs assistant basic supervisor Ryan Hardy, who’s overseeing the Traverse Metropolis squad, tends to agree.
“In case you take a look at final season specifically, he performed 28 video games within the American League and scored 16 targets,” Hardy stated of the group’s younger sniper. “That’s a 40-goal clip, for a child that simply turned  the opposite day. That’s unbelievable. He’s extraordinarily pushed, he’s a younger man that loves hockey, so I feel he’s just about knocking on the doorstep.”
And so it comes down to a different prospect match, one other coaching camp, one other pre-season. One other likelihood for Robertson to point out the Maple Leafs brass that he’s the participant he believes he’s — and the participant they imagine he’s, too.
“You already know, yearly I might say, ‘That is my yr.’ Yearly I’m making an attempt to make the group. Even after I was drafted three years in the past, I needed to make the group,” Robertson stated. “My objective is clearly not to return to the American League, my objective is to play within the NHL like it’s yearly. Nothing’s modified. So, so far as the probabilities of making the group, that’s as much as [Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe].
“However for me, I’ve bought to place myself in the very best place to take action.”