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NHL Prospect of the Year: How Toronto’s Robertson surpassed expectations, plus our All-Prospect team

The 2019-20 hockey season was incomplete for most leagues. But even with playoff-less campaigns, we still have a large sample of prospect game play and plenty of evidence of progression. And we can certainly still name a Prospect of the Year based on what we saw throughout the season.

Last season’s Prospect of the Year was defenseman Cale Makar, who followed up one of the more remarkable seasons by a collegiate player in recent memory with a truly stellar rookie season with the Colorado Avalanche. He might soon have a Calder Trophy to put next to his Hobey Baker Award in his trophy case.

Makar was an easy choice for the Prospect of the Year designation a year ago, but so many incredible performances made it a lot closer this time around. So I’m putting a little twist on it this year — in addition to naming the Prospect of the Year, I’m casting a wider net and also picking a 23-player roster to create the 2019-20 All-Prospect team.

But before we reveal the honorees, an important caveat: The Prospect of the Year is in specific reference to the season the player just completed. Stats, individual honors from their respective leagues and progression on their development curve are all considered. This is not necessarily a reflection of a player’s long-term projection, and the Prospect of the Year should not also be considered hockey’s top prospect. That’s what our top 50 lists are for. This is simply an evaluation of the past 12 months.

Jump to:
Prospect of the Year | Just missed
The All-Prospect team roster

Prospect of the Year: Nicholas Robertson, LW, Peterborough Petes (OHL)

NHL affiliation: Toronto Maple Leafs
Drafted: No. 53 in 2019

There were so many worthy candidates, but there was something special about what the 18-year-old accomplished this season. With 55 goals in just 46 games, Robertson had the highest goals-per-game average (1.19) for a player with at least 50 goals in the OHL since Pat Peake averaged 1.26 goals per game in 1992-93. A full 68-game season at that pace would have put Robertson over 80 goals. Eighty. That’s ridiculous. (Though it’s worth noting Robertson would not have played a full 68-game season, regardless of the canceled season. He dealt with injuries and was with Team USA for World Junior Championship duty.)

One of the youngest players eligible to be drafted last June, Robertson has put himself in a position to already challenge for a spot on the Maple Leafs next season. I had him as my No. 19 prospect in the class entering the 2019 draft, but he slid all the way to No. 53 in the second round. Concerns about his size (5-foot-9, 164 pounds) and skating caused teams to hedge on Robertson. During his 2018-19 season, Robertson had 55 points in 54 games for Peterborough and was a standout for Team USA at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup.

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