With the calendar flipping to December, thoughts around the globe turn towards the holiday season and the end of a horrible year, but in the hockey world, the focus will be on the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta.
Team Russia revealed their roster late last month, which included three Leafs prospects Rodion Amirov, Artur Akhtyamov and Mikhail Abramov. On Monday Team USA released their preliminary roster of 29 players and winger Nick Robertson was included.
Robertson played for the American squad last December in the Czech Republic and scored five points (2 goals, 3 assists) in five games, following in older brother Jason’s (Dallas Stars prospect) footsteps at the WJC. The 19-year-old would likely be prominently placed on one of the top offensive units alongside top NHL prospects Trevor Zegras, Cole Caufield and Alex Turcotte, but it is unknown whether Toronto will allow Robertson to participate in the tournament.
"(Nick) might have quicker hands, but I'm more of a goal scorer and he's more of a dynamic, skilled forward." Robertson's brother Jason said to Sportsology's Russ Cohen last year. "He's gonna be able to dominate (against bigger opponents), even with this small frame. I don't know if he'll ever get as big as I am (Jason is 6'3"), but we're two different players and we're both doing well."
Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that Robertson’s availability will depend on when NHL training camps will take place and the 2021 regular season starts. The Leafs top prospect remained in Canada after playing four games in the qualifying round against Columbus in August to work out at the club’s practice facility in hopes of making the NHL roster next season.
Introducing #TeamUSA’s preliminary roster for the 2021 World Junior Championship. 🇺🇸
The World Junior begins on Christmas Day and lasts until January 5, and the Americans are expected to finalize their roster by December 13. If the NHL and NHLPA agree on adjusted parameters on revenue, escrow and deferred salary in the next week and training camps begin in December for a January 1 start date, Johnston believes that Robertson will stay with the Leafs for training camp. If the season start is delayed until mid-January and camps open later, GM Kyle Dubas may allow the young winger to play in Edmonton.
Robertson may have a difficult time making the Leafs roster after they added wingers Jimmy Vesey, Wayne Simmonds and Alexander Barabanov in free agency, but there are some indications that the NHL may implement taxi squads early in the season with the American Hockey League not starting until early February and replacements needed at a moments notice due to positive COVID tests.
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