Nick Robertson was supposed to spend his 21st birthday last month watching the Detroit Lions open their season at Ford Field against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Then he got an email.
The Maple Leafs were sending him to Michigan, not for a Lions game but a prospect tournament in Traverse City. Robertson spent his birthday driving to Toronto, where preparations for the tournament would begin.
And while it seemed a tad unusual for a player like Robertson, someone who has already played in parts of three NHL seasons, to suit up in a prospect tournament, it looks like it might have been just the start he needed before training camp with the Leafs.
It’s looking more and more like Robertson will indeed crack the Leafs out of camp, technically for the first time. (He was on the taxi squad to start the 2020-21 season.) Robertson is putting numbers on the board — three goals and seven points in four games — and playing as well as coach Sheldon Keefe has seen him in a Leafs uniform.
“He’s doing things that he needs to do to show that he’s wanting a spot on the team and he’s ready to play in the NHL,” Keefe told reporters after Robertson’s three-assist outing in Montreal earlier this week.
The more interesting question as it pertains to Robertson, though, isn’t whether he’ll be on the Leafs roster and in the lineup when their season begins against the Canadiens on Oct. 12. It’s whether he can stick around long after that.
Looking back, it feels almost like a blessing and a curse that Robertson wiggled his way onto the Leafs as an 18-year-old for the bubble playoffs in 2020.