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Maple Leafs’ Robertson confident he’s ready for NHL spotlight

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 Heart in Etobicoke, Ont., on Wednesday getting ready to go well with up for one more prospect match in Traverse Metropolis, Mich., this week — and one other bid to turn out to be the Maple Leafs’ x-factor.

“It is simply one other alternative to get some sport reps,” Robertson mentioned after apply wrapped up. “I feel I have been off about three months or so, and I positively need to be in sport 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 towards his fellow blue-and-white prospects, his true competitors set to take the ice at that fundamental coaching camp down the road. However Robertson is well-aware of the eyes that shall be on him in Traverse Metropolis watching to see how he handles his position as a veteran teen.

“It is positively [about] taking part in the best approach. I am positively going to play much more minutes, be counted on in additional of a management position now,” he mentioned of his targets for the match, which runs Thursday to Monday. “I positively need to put that expectation and stress on myself to do properly and play properly.”

For assistant coach Manny Malhotra, who’s set to function head coach for the Traverse Metropolis match squad, it is exactly these varieties of containers he and his workers shall be anticipating the younger Maple Leafs to test.

“The large factor for us in camp is we need to see their aggressive nature,” Malhotra mentioned. “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 is that hockey IQ. We’re in search of them to carry out at their finest and to point out us what they’re able to doing.”

As for Robertson, Malhotra mentioned the younger winger’s want to seek out progress in Traverse Metropolis has already been clear.

“Simply seeing him on Day 1 and the final couple of days, he is ready himself properly. He seems to be sharp,” the coach mentioned. “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 position on this Traverse Metropolis camp is to finest put together guys like him, guys like Alex Steeves — guys that need to make that subsequent step — simply ensure they’re prepared for fundamental camp and to carry out at their finest.”

It has 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 aim throughout a 10-game run with the massive membership.

Together with his ability out on the sheet already plain, the work this summer season was concentrated within the fitness center.

“Getting greater and stronger,” he mentioned of his low season focus this time round. “I feel I’ve gotten slightly thicker within the legs and the higher physique, engaged on being steady on the ice. … At one level in the summertime I used to be weighing about 185, after which I type of simmered down. I feel the principle focus generally as a smaller man is you have to add weight, however I feel for me, I simply added thickness, I added extra basis.

“I did higher in my bike take a look at than I’ve ever performed earlier than, so my numbers have positively considerably gone by means of the roof.”

As he seems to be to take the subsequent 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 study from than a former first-round decide who himself needed to grind by means of some gradual begins within the huge leagues, a couple of 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, beneath 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 is coming to camp has the power to play hockey very well,” the coach mentioned with a smile. “So I feel the most important factor for being a professional can be consistency. Simply sustaining that degree of professionalism, that peak efficiency degree, on a day-to-day foundation, and never having these valleys and peaks in the best way you play, primary.

“Quantity two would simply be understanding the sport — making use of programs, positionally being in the best place on the proper time, and making the performs that you just’re anticipated to make.”

Robertson will get one other likelihood to show he can deliver that consistency, that pro-level consciousness, beginning Thursday, when Toronto’s prospects will face the Dallas Stars’ younger weapons. Matchups towards prospects from the St. Louis Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Crimson Wings will observe, earlier than the 21-year-old can transfer on to Toronto’s fundamental 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 is protecting his focus solely on the method.

“I feel, for me, it is simply doing what I can and simply taking part in the best way I can,” he mentioned of the trail forward. “I do know I am assured in myself, that I’m that caliber of participant.”

Maple Leafs assistant basic supervisor Ryan Hardy, who’s overseeing the Traverse Metropolis squad, tends to agree.

“Should you have a look at final season particularly, he performed 28 video games within the American League and scored 16 targets,” Hardy mentioned of the group’s younger sniper. “That is a 40-goal clip, for a child that simply turned [21] the opposite day. That is unbelievable. He is extraordinarily pushed, he is a younger man that loves hockey, so I feel he is 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 is the participant he believes he’s — and the participant they consider he’s, too.

“You understand, yearly I might say, ‘That is my yr.’ Yearly I am attempting to make the staff. Even once I was drafted three years in the past, I needed to make the staff,” Robertson mentioned. “My aim is clearly not to return to the American League, my aim is to play within the NHL like it’s yearly. Nothing’s modified. So, so far as the possibilities of making the staff, that is as much as [Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe].

“However for me, I’ve obtained to place myself in the very best place to take action.”

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