The Toronto Maple Leafs have made their first pick of the 2019 draft, selecting 5’9, 160-pound left winger Nick Robertson from the Peterborough Petes.

Brother of Jason Robertson of the Niagara Ice Dogs (second-round pick of the Stars in 2017), Nick scored 27 goals and 55 points in 53 games for the Petes this season to lead Peterborough forwards in point scoring despite missing some time due to a wrist injury. He also turned heads at the Hlinka tournament, posting four goals in five games for Team USA.

A California resident, Robertson has been living with his brothers in the GTA this summer in order to train with Gary Roberts at his high-performance center, which speaks to his well-regarded work ethic, character, and drive to improve as a player. Highly skilled, creative, quick, and unafraid of the physical side of the game, one area where Robertson particularly needs to make strides is in his skating explosiveness — particularly important to develop with his size limitations — and (unsurprisingly) his overall build and strength on the puck/walls.

The 17-year-old snuck in under the draft-eligibility cutoff date as a September 11, 2001 birthdate. It’s the second year in a row the Leafs have selected a winger out of Peterborough who is highly skilled, under-sized, and one of the youngest members of the draft class after picking Semyon Der-Arguchintsev in the third round of the 2018 draft. It’s a similar bet on skill, upside, and point production — size and position be damned — as has become the theme in the Leafs‘ drafting under GM Kyle Dubas.


Director of Amateur Scouting John Lilley on Nick Robertson

A good player out of Peterborough — a highly, highly skilled type of player that we are looking for moving forward. He’s a highly, highly motivated young man. Very, very serious. We met with him on several occasions and did the background. He’s driven. That’s part of what we like about him. Aside from the skill and hockey sense, this kid lives, breathes and eats hockey. That’s all he does.

You’ve got to put the faith that the players are going to do the work. As you know, the pyramid is going to get smaller and you need highly motivated people. He is certainly one of those guys. He wants it.

He is a highly skilled guy. I think he is a top line forward with power-play potential. I think he has the potential to be a point producer who can play on your power play. They’re young kids who have to put the work in. Like I said, I think he will. I can’t give you “first line” or “second line,” but we certainly have high hopes he is going to be an offensive player at the NHL level in time.


Nicholas Robertson Scouting Reports

From MLHS’ Kevin Papetti:

Robertson looked like one of the most skilled players on the ice at the Top Prospects game. He makes magic happen with the puck and scored at a point per game rate this year, which may not jump off the page at first but he did lead one of the league’s weaker teams in scoring. He was also a major standout for USA at the Hlinka, so there are certainly some reasons for optimism here.

He’s tiny, but he stands out as both a talented shooter and playmaker and is also one of the youngest players in this draft class. He seems to put on a show every time I watch him and he doesn’t let his size stop him from competing for loose pucks. He’s not incredibly fast for a smaller winger, but everything I have seen tells me that he’s one of the top 25 players in this class despite the extra risk involved with taking a 5’9 winger.

From Corey Pronman:

“Robertson impressed all season, from the Hlinka Gretzky through his play in the OHL. He’s a dynamic player. His scoring stats may not jump off the page, but he’s one of the youngest players in the draft and generated a lot of shots. Robertson’s skill level is very high. He often makes highlight reel plays, making creative plays through legs and finding a way to create a chance out of nothing. Robertson can make the creative dekes, but he’s also a very good passer and shooter. His passes are often flashy, but he can try to do too much at times with his playmaking and turns pucks over. His shot is one of the best in the draft. He can snipe pucks off the crossbar and has often beat goalies from a distance. He could use an extra gear in his feet for such a smaller player with a hunched-over stride. Off the puck he’s OK. He’s no penalty killer, but he competes fine. He leans on his shot a bit too much, and I’d like to see him get between the dots more.”

Nick is a highly skilled player with a tremendous level of compete. He works extremely hard in all three zones. He is extremely focused and everything he does is based on becoming a better player.
– Petes GM Michael Oke

Nick has a successful, interesting family, per GoPetesGo.com:

Beyond Jason (an NHL draft pick), Nick has an impressive roster of siblings. His oldest sister, Alex, works at their father’s law firm; oldest brother Michael is currently attending school in Hong Kong as a student of USC, and is described by Nick as a ‘genius’; sister Brianne stepped away from the opportunity of playing Division 1 lacrosse to pursue her dreams of acting. Atop all this, Nick’s father, Hugh, Robertson may have the most outstanding fun fact, having made an appearance in the film the Notebook and having his own IMDB page.


Analysis from Kevin Papetti

Robertson is a 5’9 left-winger who ranked 24th on my board. He’s a high-end playmaker who was one of the most impressive players on the ice back at the Top Prospects game. Robertson was teammates with Leafs prospect Semyon Der-Arguchintsev in Peterborough this year, so the team has definitely seen a lot of him.

Robertson played with sniper Arthur Kaliyev at both the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament and Top Prospect Game, and they looked like a match made in heaven. While posting 55 points in 54 OHL games does not immediately jump off the page, he played on a pretty weak team and did not have many shooters to play with. In addition, thanks to a September birthday, he’s one of the youngest players in this draft.

Video

You can see Roberson’s creativeness in the clip above. Robertson was easily one of the most offensively-talented players left on the board at 53. He’s quick, elusive, and creative in the offensive zone, which gives him 60+ point potential. Of course, you’re never going to find a 5’9 forward who is a lock to make the NHL in the second round, but the risk is clearly worth the potential reward in my opinion.

The early comparable that you will hear for Robertson is Jeremy Bracco. I think that’s a pretty lazy comparison. Robertson is a step quicker than Bracco, a better shooter, and better in puck battles. I don’t think he’s as impressive as a passer, but he’s still above average in that area.

Initial Thoughts

This was a great start to the 2019 Draft for the Maple Leafs. Robertson can keep up at the NHL level, and he forechecks well for a 5’9 winger. He’s above average in transition and is equally skilled as a goalscorer and playmaker.

I think back to his performance against Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament, where he scored three goals against a loaded team. The USA did not have anyone from the USDP on their team, so Robertson decided to put the team on his back against the best players that Canada had to offer. You can find his highlights from that game here.

Robertson was available at 53 simply because of his position and size. There were plenty of safe picks in the 20-50 range as teams loaded up on big and fast players who have a strong chance of making the NHL in some capacity. Robertson has a better chance of being a difference maker at the NHL level. I think that is worth the risk. I expect him to take a big step forward in the Ontario Hockey League.


Nicholas Robertson Statistics

STeamLeagueGPGATPPIM+/- POSTGPGATPPIM+/-
2014-15Little Caesars Bantam Minor AAAHPMBHL16613192|
2015-16Vaughan Kings Bantam AAAGTBHL-----|
2016-17Toronto Red Wings Min Midget AAA “A”GTMMHL3218183620|
North York RangersOJHL40332|
2017-18Peterborough PetesOHL6215183314-27|
2018-19Peterborough PetesOHL5427285524-3|Playoffs51122-7

Nick Robertson Video