Robert­son is thriv­ing in Peter­bor­ough

Leafs prospect pro­duc­ing like a first-round pick; tied for lead in league scor­ing

The Peterborough Examiner - - SPORTS - KYLE CICERELLA

Peter­bor­ough Petes for­ward Nick Robert­son had no hes­i­ta­tion ap­proach­ing Maple Leafs coach Mike Bab­cock to talk af­ter Toronto se­lected him in the 2019 Na­tional Hockey League draft.

Grow­ing up in the sub­urbs of Detroit while Bab­cock coached the Red Wings, Robert­son had an easy con­ver­sa­tion starter.

“Not ex­actly neigh­bours but I trick-or­treated at his house,” said the 18-yearold. “I knew he lived in the area. When I was drafted I men­tioned it to him and we talked a lit­tle bit about the city of Northville and the hockey around it.”

Robert­son was the Leafs’ top pick in the 2019 NHL draft, taken in the sec­ond round 53rd over­all, af­ter Toronto traded its first-round pick in Jan­uary to the L.A. Kings in the Jake Muzzin deal.

But he’s opened the 2019-20 On­tario Hockey League sea­son by out­pro­duc­ing the ma­jor­ity of the ju­nior play­ers se­lected ahead of him and could be­come a steal if his play con­tin­ues.

The five-foot-nine, 164-pound Robert­son, a quick skater that likes to have the puck on his stick, be­gan the year with at least one goal in eight straight games and has 28 points in 17 contests. Head­ing into Fri­day he was tied with L.A. Kings prospect Arthur Kaliyev of the Hamil­ton Bull­dogs for the OHL lead with 19 goals.

The left-handed winger also had a strong show­ing in the sum­mer at Leafs rookie and train­ing camp, im­press­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion enough to sign him to a three-year en­try-level con­tract in Septem­ber.

Robert­son says hav­ing the sup­port of Toronto gen­eral man­ager Kyle Dubas helped to mo­ti­vate him when he re­turned to Peter­bor­ough for his third sea­son of ju­nior.

“I think af­ter the sign­ing there’s some pres­sure and ex­pec­ta­tions but I had a lot of con­fi­dence af­ter that too,” said Robert­son.

“I’m just shoot­ing the puck more, feel­ing more com­fort­able on the ice with two years un­der my belt.”

Robert­son stays in reg­u­lar con­tact with Toronto’s de­vel­op­ment team while with the Petes and is lis­ten­ing to their ad­vice.

“Stick to what I’m good at but get bet­ter off the ice, ma­ture a lit­tle bit, way I carry my­self,” Robert­son says was the mes­sage at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son. “I’m not a kid any­more. I’m an adult and they’re pay­ing you to do what they want and they have ex­pec­ta­tions. You have to keep that in per­spec­tive. They want to make sure ev­ery­thing is go­ing right. I like that con­tact and I think it helps me.”

Robert­son is thriv­ing on a line this sea­son with Se­myon Der-Ar­guchin­stev, an­other Leafs prospect se­lected 76th by Toronto in 2018.

The duo were orig­i­nally paired to­gether last sea­son and formed a friend­ship that in­cludes off-ice ac­tiv­i­ties like go­ing out for din­ner and play­ing ping-pong.

Der-Ar­guchin­stev, pri­mar­ily a play­maker, has three goals and 22 as­sists in 15 games this sea­son and has set up on 13 of Robert­son’s 19 goals.

Late in Oc­to­ber, the Rus­sian-born cen­tre sprung Robert­son while short-handed for a hat-trick goal in a lop­sided win over the Steel­heads, then came to Robert­son’s aid when a Mis­sis­sauga player took ex­cep­tion to the goal and shoved his team­mate af­ter the play.

“We have a lot of chem­istry on and off the ice,” said Robert­son.

“Last year played to­gether and ob­vi­ously he got drafted … Hard not to put us to­gether.”

Robert­son’s older brother Jason tore up the OHL last sea­son and is cur­rently in the Dal­las Stars or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The two were born in Cal­i­for­nia and moved to Michi­gan in 2009 to con­tinue their pursuit of hockey.

Robert­son’s fa­ther is a Michi­gan na­tive and moved to the Los An­ge­les area to con­tinue his ca­reer as a lawyer. That’s where he met Robert­son’s mother, who is orig­i­nally from the Philip­pines. They would split time between the two States for hockey rea­sons be­fore even­tu­ally land­ing in the OHL.

Robert­son says he has two main goals this sea­son: win­ning an OHL ti­tle and mak­ing the Amer­i­can world ju­nior team this De­cem­ber.

“Keep work­ing hard and I think I have a good chance,” said Robert­son, whose older brother played in the 2019 tour­na­ment.

“One (goal) is in­di­vid­ual and one is team. Good for the re­sumé next year,” he said.

LUKE DURDA THE CANADIAN PRESS

Nick Robert­son aims to win an OHL ti­tle and make the U.S. world ju­nior team.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.