I’m all about taking preseason results with a grain of salt. However, when you witness a player loaded with potential beginning to capitalize, it’s worth noticing when it comes to the rookie of the year race and awarding the Calder Trophy.
Such is the case with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nick Robertson. After tallying 55 goals and 86 points across just 46 games in his final season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Peterborough Petes, the Maple Leafs snatched the American winger with their second-round pick (53rd overall) in the 2019 NHL Draft. The pick could look brilliant in hindsight, as you don’t see many players fall to the second round on the heels of a 55-goal campaign.
After three preseason contests, Robertson is tied for the NHL lead with seven points following a three-point effort in Monday’s win over the Montreal Canadiens. Robertson has three goals in as many preseason games and is using his booming shot in the process. His confidence in using that shot — his main scoring weapon — is evident and has led to sterling (very) early results ahead of the 2022-23 NHL season.
We’ve speculated correctly on a Toronto Maple Leafs winning NHL hardware before, maybe we’ve found some Maple Leaf magic and have a line on an underdog who could shock the world and win some hardware along the way.
Robertson’s Value is Currently Sky-High
This year’s Calder Trophy race for the NHL’s rookie of the year is shaping up to be both entertaining and widespread. You can make cases for more than a dozen rookies at the moment with names such as Anaheim’s Mason MacTavish (+400), Buffalo’s Owen Power (+500), and Seattle’s Matty Beniers (+550) as the odds-on favorites to win the Calder according to BetOnline.
However, in such a deep crop of rookies, it’s truly anyone’s award to win at the moment. As a result, Robertson makes a fine choice down at +4000, given what we’ve seen recently and dating back to his junior days.
Additionally, many players with shorter odds than Robertson are far from opening-night locks for NHL roster spots. While that doesn’t eliminate them from the race, it certainly helps that Robertson has displayed more than enough talent and will to make the Leafs out of camp.
Lineup Spot Locked, But Where?
Following a two-goal, three-point effort against the Ottawa Senators on Friday and another three-point outing on Monday, Robertson has all but cemented himself into Toronto’s opening-night lineup. The question is where he stands in the pecking order.
Given his offensive skillset, Robertson is best equipped to play with some of the Leafs’ premier players in what has been an elite offense in recent seasons. With the Leafs getting top-tier production out of the Michael Bunting, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner trio at the top, combined with a left-wing opening on the team’s second line, Robertson is a prime candidate to be the recipient of a second-line role.
Playing alongside John Tavares (when he returns from injury early in the season) and William Nylander on the club’s second line is a major boon to Robertson’s Calder hopes. Tavares and Nylander combined for 156 points in 160 games last season, meaning Robertson could line up alongside a pair of point-per-game players to begin the season.
If that’s the case, a longshot wager on Robertson for Calder could be a five-star play in short order.