By Warren Kozireski —
When you stand 6’4” and 200 lb. at 21 years old it may sound funny to say that your goal on the ice is to go unnoticed, but that is exactly what a defensive defenseman like New York Rangers prospect Matthew Robertson desires.
A second-round selection (49th overall) in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, some scouts wrote in early reports that he would be a mid-to-late first round pick, but two concussions in his pre-draft season may have had some teams shy away.
Much to the delight of the Rangers, who already saw enough in Robertson in Prospect and Training Camps last fall that he was on the NHL taxi squad before playing in a professional game.
“Maybe a little bit of a setback,” Robertson said referring to his concussions. “I think coming back I was a little hesitant to play physical, but it was a couple of years ago, so I’m not thinking about it too much at all.
“Being a physical presence is a big part of my game and trying to close gaps against the top players.”
In his first professional with American Hockey League affiliate Hartford, Robertson has been a solid second-pair blueliner fighting for ice time with a handful of other defense prospects.
“It’s had its ups and downs for sure, but it’s been a good learning curve for me,” Robertson said. “I’ve learned a lot from my teammates and my coaches and I’m just trying to improve each day.
“But it’s been alright, and definitely a lot of improvement needed.
“I think it (the taxi squad time) helped for sure just to get a taste of that and I think it made me a little more hungry. Seeing what it’s like up there and coming back down here and working harder.”
With just a handful of games remaining in the regular season, he had one goal with ten assists in 62 contests.
But scoring is not and will not be his main contribution to a winning hockey team. His ability to separate forwards from the puck and work both the corners and in front of the net will be.
And was falling out of the first round a motivator?
“I think so, but at the end of the day it’s what you do on the ice. You can’t control that, but I can control coming in every day to try to get better.” Specifically, “watching video with my d-coach trying to improve on the little details offensively like moving the puck quicker, trying to be in the right spots defensively and improve my confidence.
Keep in mind that this is also Robertson’s first time away from home as the Edmonton native spent four-plus junior seasons with his hometown Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western Hockey League.
Another key cog on the future blueline of the New York Rangers isn’t far away, but patience with his development could be a key into how impctful that NHL career will be.
(Wolf Pack Hockey Photo)