The Toronto Maple Leafs are set to unveil a brand new weapon on Sunday when they play in the first game of their Qualifying Round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
There has been a ton of speculation regarding the current trajectory of 18 year old forward Nick Robertson given his participation in training camp and his inclusion in the bubble with the Leafs, and on Saturday the Maple Leafs officially confirmed that the rookie forward would be making his National Hockey League debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was head coach Sheldon Keefe who broke the news to reporters, confirming that Robertson would be in the lineup versus Columbus.
"It's going to be a lot harder starting tomorrow, and he's got to be prepared for that and we're anxious to see how he can handle it," said Keefe on Saturday. "I believe he's prepared and ready for it and that's why we're confident in putting him in."
Robertson has been a stand out player in the Ontario Hockey League and is coming off an absurd season that has strapped a rocket to his back in terms of his development. Robertson put up an outrageous 55 goals and 31 assists, a total of 86 points, over just 46 games with the Peterborough Petes in his most recent season. The hope of course is that the rookie can translate his obvious offensive gifts to the NHL in short order, but it will be no easy task. There is a good reason that young rookies don't often make their debuts in the playoffs, and in fact it has been a very long time since a player of Robertson's age was put on such a big stage.
According to Sportsnet NHL insider Chris Johnston, the last 18 year old player to make his NHL debut in the Stanley Cup Finals was a little known player by the name of Jarome Iginla. I think drawing any comparisons between the two men beyond that point however would be unfair to Robertson given what an incredible player Iginla would go on to be.
Robertson did play in Toronto's exhibition contest against the Montreal Canadiens so Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella will have had some limited time to scout the young man, but one exhibition game will not be much to go on.