Toronto Maple Leafs draftee Nick Abruzzese has climbed up the list of the club’s prospects after a great freshman year at Harvard, but the 21-year-old center will not be able to on his early success due to injury and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abruzzese underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip earlier this month and he will be out until March, but that does not matter since the Crimson and the rest of the Ivy League cancelled their season.
“We figured it was coming for a while, but it still stinks hearing it and having it come to fruition and not being able to go back and play this year,” Abruzzese said to Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun . “I would not have been able to play for a while anyway, but at the same time, not being at school, having guys scattered all over the place and not being in a centralized location even just to hear the news, it was tough.”
The Slate Hill, NY native was drafted by Toronto as an overager in 2019 after an 80-point season with the Chicago Steel of the USHL and led Harvard and all NCAA freshman with 44 points (14 goals, 30 assists) in 31 games.
It appears that Abruzzese is focused on schoolwork and returning to full strength in time for next season with the Crimson and not turning pro, which might have been an option with a 20-month gap in game action.
“(Next season) is a long way away, but we’re going to get through this, not just Harvard hockey, but everyone in the world that is going through this right now.” Abruzzese said. “It’s not easy for everyone. We understand there is light at the end of the tunnel and that brighter days are ahead, hopefully sooner rather than later, but there will be better days for sure.”
Leafs prospect Nick Robertson remained in Canada after the Leafs were eliminated in the qualifying round, working out at the club’s practice facility in hopes of making the club next season.
“I know it’s hard being away from home, but it’s kind of a blessing in disguise because this is an experience that not many 19-year-olds can have before they step in the league,” Robertson said said to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “It’s a grind, for sure, but it’s all for a reason.”
Robertson may have a difficult time making the NHL squad after Toronto added Jimmy Vesey and Alexander Barabanov to the left side in free agency. The youngster will likely be selected for Team USA for the upcoming World Junior in Edmonton if it does not conflict with the Leafs training camp and if he does not make the roster, he would have to return to Peterborough, where he led the OHL with 55 goals last season.
*******If you are interested in sponsorship or advertising your business in the Greater Toronto / Southern Ontario area on this column, please send a message for more information by clicking on the “Contact” button at the top of the page.*******