Jason Robertson is another statistical standout whose numbers blast off the page. Whether it’s standard stats, on-ice data, adjusted scoring or cohort data, Robertson shows extremely well. Unfortunately, he’s been limited in the scouting rankings by a couple of potential red flags. Whether or not he can overcome those may be the difference between Robertson becoming a first line winger, or struggling to stick in the NHL at all.
The upside is just so tantalizing though, that we can’t help but be intrigued. Jason Robertson sits at number 20 on our top 100 list.
- Age: 17 – July 22nd, 1999
- Birthplace: Northville, MI, USA
- Frame: 6’2″ / 196 lbs
- Position: Left Wing
- Handedness: Left
- Draft Year Team: Kingston Frontenacs
Adjusted Scoring (SEAL)
Robertson’s adjusted scoring numbers were pretty phenomenal, seeing a 0.21 increase over his standard points per game rate. His relatively late birthday helped him in this regard, but in large part the boost was due to situational adjustments, thanks to a high 5-on-5 primary points rate, and excellent power play distribution.
Cohort Based (pGPS)
Robertson cleaned up in cohort based statistics, netting a 76% expected likelihood of success and 57 points per 82 games of expected production, giving him an expected value of about 44, which is outstanding for anyone draft eligible prospect, but especially for one expected to go in the second round. Brendan Shanahan is Robertson’s most similar successful match, with Rick Nash, Bryan Little and Tyler Toffoli showing high degrees of similarity as well. pGPS pegs him as a future 2nd line forward.
An opportunistic scoring winger…he reads the game and adapts well but also has games where he becomes too focused on the puck and not the play around him…has deficiencies in his skating that will need correcting moving forward…has limited levels of speed and agility in his stride although he is improving… goes to the dirty areas of the ice, and works very well along the boards, rarely losing puck battles …willing and able to play physical…good protection, using his size and his back to shield the puck…does everything he can to get to the soft spots and call for a pass… loves to fire the puck and has a strong shot with good accuracy…dangerous in close…defensively his head is on a swivel on the backcheck and he tries to see where his check is and where he needs to get to in order to lend a hand…has the potential to become a goal scorer at the pro level but has some work to do first.
As the year went on, Robertson just kept getting better, and better. The Frontenacs were far from an offensive juggernaut, but Robertson was one of the league’s premier performers in the second half of the year and the playoffs. In his final 25 games of the year (including the playoffs), he had 18 goals and 27 assists for 45 points or very nearly two points per game. Overall on the year, if you combine the regular season and playoffs, Robertson was in on nearly 48% of his teams goals this year. That’s just insane. Even with the top defensive players of the opposition keying in on him, he managed to remain consistently productive. Robertson is extremely difficult to separate from the puck and that’s one of the things that makes him so effective. He’s aggressive in driving the net and despite lacking elite speed or acceleration, manages to find his way there with, and without the puck. He’s also very intelligent. The puck just seems to find him in the offensive end, especially in the slot and near the crease. His excellent release and hands makes him a great goal scoring prospect, but also his ability to control the cycle makes him a terrific playmaker. While he’s far from a pest, his offensive game (the way he contributes offensively) reminds me a lot of Corey Perry. They have similar body types, similar skating strides and found success at the OHL level the same way. Outside of improving his skating, adding that consistent physical element and intensity level (like Perry possesses) is the key to his development. While he’s a determined player with the puck, I find that his engagement without the puck lacks consistency. Would love to see him use his size to dominate in puck retrieval and on the backcheck, but he has a tendency to float in the offensive zone, hanging out in the slot. You simply can not ignore his production this year though, even with a few warts.
From Corey Pronman of ESPN (Excerpt only – full article behind pay wall):
Robertson is a tall, strong forward who works hard to win pucks, and his ability to win battles is a plus attribute. He has above-average puck skills and can make plays in open ice. Robertson is often tagged as a goal scorer, with a very good shot that helped him be one of the top scorers in the OHL this season. However, he is also a smart player who gets his chances through good reads and getting to the right spots on the ice. The big problem with Robertson is that he has anvils for feet, and it’s his skating that causes a lot of debate on his long-term value.
From McKeen’s Hockey (Excerpt only – full article behind pay wall):
Jason Robertson was a pleasant surprise this year in the OHL as he was not expected to put up the points that he did. He really used his creativity to help carry Kingston’s offense leading them into the playoffs. His skating, shot, and puck handling skills will help him carry over into the pros. In fact, he may end up being a steal for any team that drafts him, but there are certain things that may prevent that. His defense for one needs work for him to be even considered a draft steal. His lack of focus in his own zone and non-physical play will hurt his chances of moving into more physically demanding leagues with the result being a drop in his point production until he makes the necessary adjustments.
If skating wasn’t such a big deal, Robertson might have been a lock for the top five. He had an outstanding season for Kingston, leading the Frontenacs in both regular season and playoff scoring. His soft hands and quick release helped him tally 42 goals in 68 games — 29 at even strength — but he is far from a garbage-goal scorer. Robertson is a smart winger who not only knows where to positioning himself, but remain there regardless of the beating he’s taking.
Jason Robertson performs exceptionally in a vast variety of statistical measures, making him stand out to us in the search for underrated players. There’s no question by either the numbers or the eye test that Robertson is a bonafide point producer at the junior level. He has one of the best SEAL adjusted scoring rates in the draft class, and an extraordinarily high projected value by the pGPS cohort model. So why does he vary between 24th (ESPN) and 51st (The Hockey News) in mainstream rankings?
There are a couple of reasons that stand out. First is his defensive play – or lack thereof. For all the energy that Robertson demonstrates in the offensive zone, he seems to be conserving it more than anything in the defensive zone. Carrying the puck he shows incredible puck protection skills, and demonstrates strength and resiliency in the high-danger areas of the ice, but again in the defensive zone he doesn’t use his body nearly as much to separate opponents from pucks, rather waiting for others to do it and feed him the puck. This kind of behaviour seemed to diminish as the season went on and into the playoffs, and is likely an issue with immaturity and perhaps a result of Robertson not being used to his game being heavily scrutinized. He was such an unheralded player in his draft-minus-one season and the start of 2016-17 that he may have been able to get away with some poor habits and inconsistent effort. That will have to change if he wants to be a successful pro – but it is certainly a fixable issue.
The other problem that comes up a lot with Robertson is his skating. He has a heavy skating style and lacks a particular high top speed or impressive acceleration. Robertson works around this at the junior level with a combination of size and strength and a high level of intelligence that helps him find the best places on the ice to be.
There’s one more thing that scouts would like to see from Robertson, and that’s some snarl. The 6-foot-2, 196 pound winger has plenty of strength and size, but rarely engages in physical play. This again could be a simple fix – then again it could be an impossible one. Vancouver fans know all too well the fruitlessness of trying to instill some menace into a gentle giant. On the other hand, it doesn’t really matter. Grit is appealing and has its role in the game, but it doesn’t contribute to goals, which is what wins games – and Robertson scores plenty of those.
All in all, I don’t see any major road blocks here – just a couple of speed bumps that should be manageable with the right development strategy and hopefully a positive attitude and growth mindset from Robertson (and that’s what combine interviews are for after all). If the team that picks Robertson can get past those bumps, they could have a heck of an offensive force on their hands.
Robertson’s calling card is his shot, and he doesn’t hesitate to use it to use advantage. He put a whopping 300 shots on net in the OHL regular season, which was the most among draft eligible players from that league. In the entire NHL, only Chicago Blackhawks pick (and 3-time OHL 50-goal scorer) Alex DeBrincat had more shots among all OHL forwards. That doesn’t mean he neglects his teammates though: Robertson has solid vision and playmaking skills and can make soft passes in traffic to help make sure his team maintains possession and set up for dangerous chances.
He led a fairly lackluster Kingston Frontenacs by nearly 20 points, and led them again in the playoffs, when the Frontenacs dispatched of a Hamilton Bulldogs team that was supposed to be a far superior squad, before falling to the Peterborough Petes in the second round. Between the final 13 games of the regular season and the playoffs, Robertson scored 45 points in the final 24 games he played this season – and still he didn’t get a sniff at the Top Prospects Game or international play.
Despite the valid criticisms of his defensive play, Robertson ended up in the black at 5-on-5 over the course of the season, sporting a 51.8 Goals-For percentage that looks even better considering the team he was on. Robertson GF-rel% of 11.5 was in the upper echelon of draft eligible players from his league – not bad for a kid who has yet to kick it up a notch in his own end.
Patience will be required from the team that selects Robertson. He needs some commitment and consistency instilled in certain areas of his game. But his offensive instincts and abilities are so well polished and natural that teams should be itching to get their hands on him anyway. I wouldn’t let this kid get out of the first round.
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