Toronto Maple Leafs: Where would Nick Robertson go in the 2020 draft?

Nicholas Robertson of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)
Nicholas Robertson of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /

Nick Robertson was the youngest player in the 2019 NHL draft; where would the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect be selected if he was in the 2020 draft?

If ‘Nick Robertson’ isn’t a household name to you just yet, be patient. The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect soon will be.

Robertson, the Leafs’ 2019 2nd round pick (53rd overall), put up 86 points in just 46 games for the OHL’s Peterborough Petes this past season. This included an eye popping 55 goals – he was the only player in the league to average over a goal per game, and frankly, no other player was even close.

He also played for the United States in the World Junior Hockey Championship, putting up a point per game. Robertson topped off this season by earning the William Hanley Memorial Trophy as the most sportsmanlike player in the OHL.

The talent that Robertson displayed in junior hockey earned him a spot on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ return to play roster, and many are predicting he will earn a spot in the starting lineup. Andreas Johnsson’s injury means there could be an open spot in the team’s top nine.

Robertson’s fit would likely be on the third line, playing alongside Alexander Kerfoot and Kasperi Kapanen. This threesome looked dangerous in limited time during the Leafs’ lone exhibition game versus the Montreal Canadiens – Robertson even registered an assist on Kerfoot’s second goal of the game.

Here’s a fact that you’re going to grow tired of hearing as Robertson kicks off his NHL career – he was the youngest eligible player in the 2019 draft. Robertson was born on September 11; if he had been born after Sept. 15, he would have been a member of this upcoming draft.

Other players in the 2019 draft had nearly a full additional year of development when drafted. Robertson’s remarkable 2020 season shows that many teams made a mistake in passing over the young winger, and begs the question: Had he been born five days later, and was eligible for this upcoming draft, where would he be selected?

Alexis Lafreniere is the consensus number one pick of the 2020 draft; Robertson would not be overtaking him. The same goes regarding Quinton Byfield, a centre who scored four fewer points in one less game than Robertson in the OHL this year.

German centre Tim Stutzle is projected to be the third overall pick. After Stutzle won the Rookie of the Year award in the top German league, it’s unlikely that Robertson would hear his name called before him.

After the ‘big three’ in this year’s draft, things begin to get a bit more interesting regarding where Robertson would go in the 2020 draft. Marco Rossi is quite similar in size to Robertson — both players are 5’ 9 –, and is an equal offensive threat. (Rossi led the OHL in points this year, finishing with 39 goals and 81 assists in 54 games.)

Rossi’s defensive game is slightly further along than Robertson’s. The difference in this area of the ice is enough in my opinion to say that Rossi would also be selected ahead of Robertson.

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Most experts predict that one defenceman will be selected in the top five picks, with that player being Jamie Drysdale. Drysdale was nearly a point-per-game player for the Erie Otters this season, an impressive feat for a player who was just 17 years old for the entire season.

Additionally, the Ottawa Senators hold the third and fifth picks in the draft. After selecting a forward with their first pick of the round, logic and team need suggest they will select a defenceman with their next pick.

After these five players, you could realistically see Robertson being selected anywhere from the six-to-10 range of the draft. Given his 2020 season and (very, very, very) slight age advantage, this range seems about right for his selection.

Robertson is more flashy and better offensively than Cole Perfetti and Lucas Raymond, and a better all around player than Jack Quinn and Alexander Holtz – all forwards projected to be picked in the top 10. Quinn is only eight days younger than Robertson, yet that eight days is the difference between Quinn being a top 10 pick in this draft class and Robertson falling to the second round of last year’s draft.

While Robertson certainly would have preferred being drafted in the top 10, Leafs fans should be very thankful that he fell all the way to the 53rd pick. Robertson is the exact type of young, cheap talent that the team needs to play a supporting role behind expensive stars like Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner.

It’s this sort of draft and development of young wingers that has kept the Pittsburgh Penguins relevant throughout the entire Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin era. There is little doubt the Leafs got a steal in Robertson, potentially the biggest steal in the entire 2019 draft.

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Without setting the bar too high, it’s worth noting that if Robertson makes the lineup Sunday in the team’s first playoff game against Columbus, he will be the first 18-year-old to play in a playoff game for Toronto since Ted Kennedy, one of the top 100 players in NHL history. Regardless of his career outcome, it’s been a while since Toronto drafted a player outside of the first round with as much star potential as Robertson and it is guaranteed that all eyes will be on him if he makes the lineup at any point in the 2020 playoffs.