The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed 2019 draft selection Nick Robertson to a three-year entry-level contract, the club announced on Thursday.
Dot the i’s and cross the t’s 🖋
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) September 19, 2019
Not every second-round prospect is signed this early, but the Leafs made a similar gesture last year with 2018 third-round selection and fellow Peterborough Pete, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, after he showed well in camp (even getting into the lineup for a preseason game). Signing the first NHL contract — complete with a signing bonus that puts some cash in the player’s pocket — gives the player a nice reward for a good camp effort and a taste of what’s to come if they keep up the hard work.
The Leafs didn’t bring Robertson to the main camp or get him into any NHL preseason action, unlike SDA last year, but you wonder if they’ve made it a priority to get the 18-year-old right winger back for the end of Petes camp and the start of the OHL regular season. Last Fall, SDA missed a couple of games at the beginning of the OHL season due to Leafs camp and he started the campaign with just five points in 12 games.
Robertson led the way offensively for the Leafs’ youngsters at the prospect tournament in Traverse City, Michigan earlier this month, tallying four goals in three games. Robertson’s puck skills, his ability to make defenders miss, his pace and his dangerous shot were all evident in the tournament, but what also stood out — particularly for his first go-around in the event — was how tenacious he was battling for pucks for an undersized player.
With the right development program — and Robertson is a through-and-through hockey nerd whose commitment to his craft showed in his willingness to stay in the Toronto area and train at Gary Roberts’ performance center this past summer — Robertson might not be a player who absolutely has to make a top-six to become an NHL player, although he certainly has the raw upside to play on an NHL scoring line one day. He looks like a player who could capably check in the league if he had to, whether it’s his full-time role or if it’s to get his foot in the door before progressing up an NHL lineup.
Looking at his older brother Jason’s build (6’2, 200+), you wonder if there might be a late growth spurt left in Nick as well. The Leafs will be hoping Nick travels a similar trajectory for the rest of his OHL career production-wise; the two were drafted two years and 14 picks apart, and Jason finished his OHL career this past season by racking up a ridiculous 78 points in 38 games after a trade to Niagara.
Whether he grows in height or not, a skill set and work ethic (on and off the ice) combination like Robertson’s usually makes for a player who’s a good bet to play in the league one day. Robertson’s 2019 camp was a great first step for him, and it’s now been capped with his first NHL contract.