TLN Prospect #2: Nick Robertson proves ready for a true test with the Maple Leafs

Nick Robertson has had a rough go throughout the past few seasons, but it might finally be time to take the next step in the Maple Leafs organization.
It feels like the 20-year-old has been through it all — from lighting up the OHL, to playing for Toronto in the NHL bubble, to sustaining major injuries in both seasons with the Marlies — all within the last three years.
Robertson is someone who believes he needs a chance to showcase his worth at the NHL level, and in October, he might just get that opportunity.
LW | Toronto (AHL) | Age: 20 | 5-foot-9 | 164 lbs | Shoots: LAcquired: 2019 2rd Round, 53th Overall | 2021 Ranking: 2
To say this is a huge year for Robertson would be an understatement. This is a massive year for the 20-year-old.
Although he’s been injured for much of the past two seasons, Robertson has improved majorly throughout — when it might not have seemed possible to do so.
Looking back to his first year with the Marlies, there was a lot of room for the 20-year-old …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

TLN Prospect #8: Nick Abruzzese set to prove the doubters wrong yet again

As was the case for many players, Nick Abruzzese entered the 2021-22 season with major question marks having missed an entire year of hockey. Unlike most who had been able to at least use the time away from the rink to work on other aspects of their game, Abruzzese spent his rehabbing.
Even if Harvard had played their 2020-21 season, he wasn’t going to have been a part of it for very long. Abruzzese underwent hip surgery in the summer of 2020 to repair a nagging injury, an operation that would’ve sidelined him for a vast majority of the 2020-21 season.
Coming back from over a year away from game action and a significant surgery, it was fair to have reservations over what Nick Abruzzese would be able to produce. But just as he has done time and time again in his career, he proved the doubters wrong.
Nick Abruzzese
LW | Harvard (ECAC) | Age: 23 | 5-foot-10 | 174 lbs | Shoots: LAcquired: 2019 Draft, 124th Overall | 2021 Ranking: #8
At every level Nick Abruzzese has played, he’s faced the same doubts over and over. Concerns over his lack of size and average at best skating are perfectly valid. They remain true and are going to be the biggest hurdles for him to overcome if he is to …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

Getting Matthew Knies after the NCAA season might be the biggest splash the Leafs can make this year

Yesterday Nick Barden wrote about how Matthew Knies enjoys the pressure that comes with being a top prospect in the Leafs organization. That’s probably a good thing because whether he likes it or not, there seems to be a need for him to hit the ground running as soon as the NCAA Frozen Four tournament wraps up.
We’ll have a lot more on Knies this summer as the World Juniors start, and as TLN embarks on our prospect rankings, but given that Knies isn’t likely a name to come up at the backend of the countdown, we’ll address that need for him to be the big body second line left winger the Leafs haven’t been able to find elsewhere.
By his NCAA numbers, we’ve been given a lot of reasons to be excited:

Knies is very much already at the top of the NCAA game and is going back to school largely because he wishes to have another go at the Frozen Four and not necessarily because the Leafs think he needs to be there. That’s somewhat admirable on his part, and one that could set the Leafs up for a nice little late season push.
That doesn’t change that asking a rookie to fix an area of need in the top six isn’t a complete gamble, but that’s one largely of the Leafs own making.
Quite simply, the Leafs don’t have the money now for an impact player. Sure, trades exist, but that is dependent on a GM looking for them, and often players are willing to waive their no trade clauses to make it happen. Options are limited.
Over the course of a season injuries will happen, and the Leafs may have the opportunity to use that LTIR relief in order to explore roster upgrades. This is also a bit of a flawed premise as it is likely wherever the injury has occurred, that’s where their need is going to be, not to mention the distasteful premise of hoping the right player gets injured for the right amount of time in order to have wiggle room at the trade deadline.
Nope, we’re back to putting a lot of eggs in Matthew Knies’ basket, and the unfair pressure that comes with that.
Still, a player that made the (non-NHL) Olympic team before he finished his first year of college likely has a lot to offer. And if we didn’t get a chance to see much of what that is in development camp, we’ll get to see it s …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation