I love this kid, and by the end of this profile, you will too. This is a home run swing waiting to happen.
That’s it, that’s the intro. Let’s go!
- Age/Birthdate: 17 / September 11, 2001
- Birthplace: Arcadia, California, USA
- Frame: 5-foot-9 / 161 lbs
- Position: Centre/Left Wing
- Handedness: Left
- Draft Year Team: Peterborough Petes (OHL)
2018-19 Stat Rundown
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There is a ton to like about Nick Robertson. He’s speedy, agile, elusive, aggressive, and smart as a whip. He’s a dual threat offensively, with the ability to create scoring chances as a shooter or a playmaker. How he goes about doing so, however, can be a little unorthodox.
We might as well get this out of the way: if there’s one major area in which he’s lacking, it’s his size. Robertson is undoubtedly on the small side, at 5-foot-9 and 161 pounds. As we all know, size isn’t what it used to be in the NHL, and Robertson would have plenty of company at that height should he join the professional ranks in the next couple of years.
That said, Robertson will need to add strength to continue to be effective as he moves up in competition. He’s a fierce competitor, and he plays with a degree of physicality. Unfortunately, at this point he’s mostly just bouncing off opponents in situations where he tries to exert his will physically. On the bright side, Robertson is among the youngest available players this year, born just four days before the cutoff. That gives plenty of time for him to get stronger and sturdier.
Possessing a high level of intelligence and an impressive understanding of the game, Robertson has found ways around deficiencies brought on by lack of size. He’s quick, tenacious and relentless on loose pucks and contested pucks, pouncing on opponents in situations where possession isn’t strong.
In situations where he manages to take the puck off opponents (a frequent occurrence, I assure you), he can make a couple of shifty moves to buy himself a ton of space to plan his next move, as in the play above, or he can punish his opponent immediately, as in the play below.
A common technique employed by Robertson is a tight stop to elude an opponent, pulling the puck in close to keep it out of reach. He performs this move constantly to create space for himself before foraying up the ice. He demonstrates this in the play below, as well as a couple of other notable moves: a delicate place-and-chase chip and a sudden burst of speed, the combination of which allows him to get around an opponent who is caught a bit flatfooted, retrieve the puck which has lost most of its momentum, and attack the net.
Another little bit of deceptive puck carrying shows up in the next clip, in which Robertson fakes a cut back to make it seem like he’s going to head back up the wall to the point. The defender bites and maneuvers to cut Robertson off from behind, but Robertson has already cut back to his original path and then proceeds into the corner uninhibited. Not done yet, he makes a quick backhand pass across the endline just as he’s about to pass behind the net; nothing comes of it here, but that’s a high percentage shot assist. The cherry on top is Robertson shirking his check and cruising back into the slot to set a tip. Not only did Robertson establish in-zone possession on this play with a savvy entry, he set up multiple potentially dangerous chances.
Robertson not only has the creativity to think up deceptive maneuvers to create space for himself, he also has a brilliant set of hands. Here he is playing a little game of keepaway from four London Knights, which ends with him drawing a tripping penalty. Robertson utilized sublime puck control, but his quick cuts and agile footwork deserve just as much credit for the amount of space he’s creating for himself.
Here’s one more example of how Robertson’s changing of speed and sudden stops open up space – and this time it’s coupled with good vision and a perfect pass to set up Adam Timleck for a goal.
Continuing to putting his passing on display, this next assist is simply phenomenal. Once again, Robertson maneuvers to create space, and then hits Timleck with a cross-ice backhand pass through right between two opponents, right on the tape.
As talented a passer as he is, we won’t make the mistake of pigeon-holing Robertson as a pure playmaker; he can score goals just fine, thank you very much, and he can do so in a lot of ways.
Breakaway speed and the hands to finish? Yes indeed.
Wrist shots from range? No problem. Robertson isn’t a terrifyingly powerful shooter (strength will help here too), but he’s quick, accurate, and once again he’s deceptive. Robertson routinely uses defenders as screens. Part of why he’s able to do this so effectively is that he can shoot the puck from anywhere: out in front with arms extended, in tight to his body, off his front foot, off his back foot, or off balance entirely.
This next goal is quite similar to the one above, as Robertson baits and out-waits the defender, then uses that defender to mask his shot until the last second, pulling the puck in and releasing it just inches from his back toe. That release is lightning quick, and with hardly any draw back. By the time the goaltender is attempting to make a save, the netting is already rippling behind him.
Other players of Robertson’s size might be reticent to get in close to the net, but not our boy. Smooth moves up close to the net-front? Robertson’s got that covered too, as the deftness of his hands and agility of his feet allows him to make precise movement in extremely tight quarters – and subsequently make fools of his opponents.
This last one is just unfair on the poor netminder, who essentially throws in the towel.
There are no two ways about it: Nick Robertson was absolutely my favourite player to watch this year. His aggressive mentality combined with a top notch skillset is a feast for the eyes, and his intelligence on the ice allows for boundless deception and creativity. I’m downright flabbergasted that he hasn’t gotten more attention this season, and even now is routinely ranked outside the first round on draft boards.
Robertson is a player that absolutely loves to be in possession of the puck. If there is any knock against him (aside from needing to add strength), it’s that he can sometimes be guilty of trying to do too much before passing the puck off to a teammate.
Robertson is listed as both a centreman and a winger, though I predominantly saw him play on the wing. Despite his size, he performed admirably along the wall, using his elusiveness and awareness to avoid checks from big defenceman as he transitioned the puck. He only took 37 faceoffs all season, indicating his time at centre was close to nonexistent. His faceoff percentage was pretty poor as well, at just 46%. All of this indicates that his team saw him as more of a winger, and that’s likely where he sticks moving forward.
Nick Robertson is the younger brother of Dallas Stars prospect Jason Robertson. Robertson was picked 39th overall in 2017; we were particularly high on him at CanucksArmy, ranking him 20th that year. He’s since exploded, putting up 117 points in 62 games this year between Kingston and Niagara. I could see Nick following a similar pattern, should he end up on a contending team with star quality teammates.
For all the great things that I had to say about Nick Robertson’s talents, I’m pretty surprised that his production wasn’t higher this season. Sure, he was a point-per-game player (27 goals, 55 points in 54 games), but given how dynamic he was each time I saw him, from the beginning of games through to the end, I would have thought he’d have put up more points.
Robertson was one of just a handful of first time eligible prospects to produce at above a point-per-game in the OHL this season, and he was certainly the youngest to do so. Once age adjustments are accounted for, only Arthur Kaliyev, Ryan Suzuki and Philip Tomasino produced at a better rate than Robertson among OHL players.
According to the Prospect Graduation Probabilities System, Robertson has an expected likelihood of success of just a smidge under 40%, making him a value pick in the middle to final third of the first round.
Furthermore, his cohort is populated by some notable names, including Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, Nazem Kadri and Tyler Seguin. There’s a spread of less notable names as well of course, but by and large he compares favourably to a not insignificant number of impact players.
When looking at SEAL adjusted scoring, which accounts for age and situational considerations, Robertson ranks 20th among first time eligible prospects, above such names as Matthew Boldy, Peyton Krebs and Alex Newhook, all of whom are vying for spots in the top ten.
Robertson’s late birthday is a boon for him here, but he has strong situational scoring numbers as well. His 35 points at 5-on-5 were comparable to Krebs (35), Kirby Dach (36) and Suzuki (39), each of whom played many more games than Robertson did.
Promising numbers continue to be abound for Robertson. The Peterborough Petes accounted for 54% of 5-on-5 goals when Robertson was on the ice, and just 49% when he was off the ice. The Petes were a below average offensive team, potting 232 goals last season, including 188 in the 54 games that Robertson played in. His involvement percentage of 29% is in the top 30 or so of this draft class, and is just a single percentage point behind what Jack Hughes accomplished with the high-flying U.S. National Development Program.
He also led his team in scoring despite playing approximately 10 fewer games than many of his teammates. By rate, Robertson led Peterborough by a healthy margin.
Robertson’s most frequent linemates include Semyon Der-Arguchintsev (a 2018 third round pick by Toronto), Christopher Pacquette (a 2016 fifth round pick by Tampa Bay) and Adam Timleck (a 21-year old undrafted winger). There weren’t many high caliber player for Robertson to play with, which is another reason why I think he might follow his brother’s lead and explode offensively in a year or two.
The bottom line with Robertson is that he’s an aggressive, high skilled possession driver and offensive dual threat, and as one of the youngest players available, he has a lot of room to grow relative to his fellow draft eligible peers. He’s been woefully undervalued and overlooked to this point. He represents a home run swing that could turn into a high end impact producer at the NHL level, although he does present some risk. Still, the upside is tantalizing. This is a player I would be considering as early as the mid-teens, and I think he has a chance to make a drafting team look very astute in a few years.
Additional Charts and Data
Rolling Season Data
Raw data for the charts used in this article came from eliteprospects.com and ontariohockeyleague.com.
Some clips were pulled from videos from prospectshifts.com. Check out Nick Robertson’s page here (paywall). Other clips were pulled from original broadcasts, with all rights reserved for the original broadcast companies.
Dad, husband, hockey fan. Founder/analyst/editor/admin of NextGenHockey.ca. Contributor at CanucksArmy and the Nation Network. Blending video analysis and statistical modeling. pGPS, SEAL, etc. The Minnesota Twins are finally good again!