Today Alex Vanderlaan wrote a really interesting article in Tip of the Tower. His question was a “What if?” that asked if Nick Robertson were five days younger and an NHL 2020 Entry Draft were to happen that included Robertson, where would he place? Would he become the first-overall draft choice, or would that choice still be the current favorite Alexis Lafreniere?
As It Stands Right Now with Nick Robertson
The Maple Leafs drafted Robertson during the second round (53rd overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He was the youngest player in the draft and only missed the September 15 cut-off because his birthday was on September 11. Were he four days younger, he would have been part of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
How Did Robertson Do This Season?
Robertson had a great 2019-20 season with the OHL’s Peterborough Petes and scored 55 goals and 86 points in 46 games. He was the only OHL player to average over a goal each game. Robertson also played for Team USA in the World Junior Hockey Championships and also averaged a point a game. Finally, in addition to his stellar play, because Robertson showed himself to be a character young guy, he was awarded the William Hanley Memorial Trophy as the OHL’s most sportsmanlike player.
In fact, Robertson displayed so much talent and maturity as an 18-year-old that he earned a call-up to the Maple Leafs’ return-to-play training camp. There, although most hockey pundits believed he was along for the experience and was preparing for a future season, he played well during the camp and – at least so far – earned a spot in the top-nine forwards in the team’s starting line up.
How Did Alexis Lafreniere Do This Season?
For those who don’t know Alexis Lafreniere, he’s a young star who played with the Rimouski Oceanic (as did the great Sidney Crosby). To tell how prolific a scorer this 18-year-old is, this season with the QMJHL’s Oceanic, in 52 games he scored 35 goals and added 77 assists. Add those totals and you’ll find he’s not just a point-a-game player, but he’s more than a two-points-a-game player.
Currently, Lafreniere is the odds-on first pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. He’s a scorer who been the consensus first pick for years (it seems). There’s a good chance he’ll plop right onto an NHL roster and play in the top-six during the 2020-21 season. He’s likely to immediately be a regular on whatever team chooses him from the start of the season.
Would a Team Choose Nick Robertson over Alexis Lafreniere?
Nick Robertson was the youngest player in the 2019 NHL draft: as I noted he was five too old to move to the 2020 draft. Let’s imagine: what if the two were head-to-head and by some reason the had the misfortune to lose to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the qualifying round but happened by the team’s good fortune to win the draft lottery and have the number one pick in this season’s draft.
Which prospect would the Maple Leafs select if both were available and they had the first choice in the draft? Other players in the 2019 draft had a full extra season of development when they were drafted. However, Robertson’s tremendous 2020 season shows how many other teams erred in passing over the feisty young winger.
So, here’s Vanderlaan’s question: Given Robertson’s season and what we know about Lafreniere’s season if Robertson had he been born five days later and were eligible for the 2020 draft, would he be selected first overall?
My answer is that Lafreniere remains the number one choice of the 2020 draft; Robertson wouldn’t replace him. But I might be wrong – ya think?
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