The Tampa Bay Lightning have a pretty deep farm system with a lot of quality forwards. The weaknesses of the system though come in the form of the blue line and in net. The goaltender situation probably isn’t as dire as the Lightning have some prospects that represent lottery tickets that could become back-ups in the NHL at some point. But the blue line is looking pretty thin after Cal Foote, especially with the graduation of Erik Cernak to the NHL.
For that reason, Matthew Robertson was a player I started to focus in on when our staff was working on the SBNation Mock Draft. He’s listed at 6’4” and 201 pounds and is a left handed defenseman. In 52 games for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL this season, he put up seven goals and 33 points. He added four goals and eight more points in 16 playoff games. He did not play internationally this season with the exception of five games in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup tournament. In five games, he recorded two goals and four points for Canada. He was too old to play in the U18 World Junior Championships this season, but played with Team Canada in 2017-18 in that tournament and recorded two assists in five games.
Robertson’s offensive output isn’t outstanding. He was the second highest scoring defenseman on his team and tied for 29th among defensemen in the WHL this season. He has shown enough passing ability in the WHL to suggest that he can be at least acceptable in terms of transitioning the puck up the ice to forwards to break out of the zone.
Robertson’s real strengths fall in other areas though. He is a mobile skater, especially for his size, with above-average speed. He’s also smart positionally and strong along the boards in puck battles. He’s strong defensively and has high hockey IQ, which is a trait that the Lightning scouting staff has been shown to favor greatly.
In reviewing some of the draft picks during the Al Murray area, there is a trend with defensemen that is different from forwards. While the Lightning have shown a distinct trend of not caring about size when it comes to forwards, that hasn’t been the case on the blue line. While the scouting staff doesn’t compromise on things like hockey IQ and work ethic, they do seem to look more towards defensemen with size that also have the other attributes the team values.
In the Murray era, the Lightning have drafted 17 defensemen with an average height of 6’2”. Only Nikita Nesterov and Tony Deangelo have been drafted and are under 6’0”. Even beyond the draft, Nesterov, Anton Stralman, Radko Gudas, and Marc-Andre Bergeron have been the only sub-6’0” defensemen to regularly play with the Lightning since the 2010-11 season.
Robertson is all over the board when it comes to draft rankings. Future Considerations has him ranked 15th, TSN’s Bob McKenzie ranks him 16th, and ISS Hockey ranks him 17th. However, HockeyProspect.com, McKeen’s Hockey, EliteProspects.com, and NHL Central Scouting’s NA Skaters list have him all ranked in the 20s. There’s every possibility that Robertson could be gone well before the Lightning make their pick at 27th in the first round. But his lack of offensive output could also cause him to slide in the first round as well.
Robertson in the Lightning system would represent a potential third pair, left handed defenseman. He has the kind of skill set to be a solid Braydon Coburn type that is sound defensively, can move the puck, mobile, and a player with size, even if he isn’t overly physical. If his offensive skills can improve, then there’s the potential that he could be more of a second pairing defenseman, but the third pairing is a more realistic projection.
Matthew Robertson Stats
|2014-2015||Sherwood Park Flyers Bantam AAA||AMBHL||31||2||10||12||14|
|2015-2016||Sherwood Park Flyers Bantam AAA||AMBHL||32||7||20||27||8||Playoffs||7||3||1||4||4|
|Team Northeast||Alberta Cup||-||-||-||-||-|
|Sherwood Park Squires Minor Mdgt||AMMHL||3||0||1||1||0|
|2016-2017||Sherwood Park Kings Midget AAA||AMHL||29||5||11||16||6||Playoffs||8||0||3||3||6|
|Edmonton Oil Kings||WHL||7||0||1||1||2|
|Edmonton Oil Kings||WHL||67||7||17||24||44|
|Canada Black U17||WHC-17||5||2||4||6||2|
|2018-2019||Edmonton Oil Kings||WHL||52||7||26||33||26||Playoffs||16||4||4||8||10|
|Canada U18||Hlinka Gretzky Cup||5||2||2||4||2|
Table via Elite Prospects.
2018 Hlinka-Gretzky tournament highlights. #3 for Team Canada.
2018-19 Highlight Reel, #22 for Edmonton Oil Kings.