The Rangers’ organizational depth on defense has seen natural movement over the years, with young players such as Braden Schneider and Zac Jones making their way up to the NHL roster.
Matthew Robertson, however, has been stuck in the minors.
You are reading: The clock is ticking on Matthew Robertson’s Rangers future
After the Rangers selected him in the second round of the 2019 NHL Draft (49th overall), Robertson played two more seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Edmonton Oil Kings.
He then transitioned to the Rangers’ AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, for the past two seasons.
One by one, Robertson’s peers have leapfrogged him on the depth chart.
One by one, the Rangers have brought in new blueliners to strengthen the drop-off between the NHL and AHL rosters.
One by one, the seasons have passed by without an NHL opportunity for Robertson.
Robertson is now on the last year of his entry-level contract, and, unless the 22-year-old defenseman has a major turnaround, his future with the Rangers could be in jeopardy.
“For me, it’s just taking it each day, one day at a time,” Robertson said after the first day of rookie camp on Wednesday. “Not looking forward, not living in the past. It’s just [about] getting better each day. Just staying confident, working on little things after practice to help with my confidence, building on each day. Not trying to be too hard on myself.”
The Rangers aren’t necessarily looking to their prospect pool to fill spots in their top-six on defense, especially after the offseason signing of free agent Erik Gustaffson, as well as the re-signings of restricted free agents K’Andre Miller and Jones.
The left side is currently stacked, with Ryan Lindgren, Miller, Gustafsson and Jones, but Robertson hasn’t put himself in the conversation for NHL opportunities.
Robertson appeared to have trouble with turnovers and consistent play in his own zone last season before a shoulder injury sidelined him for the entirety of the Wolf Pack’s playoff run.
Had Hartford advanced to the conference finals, Robertson might have been ready to play, but the club was swept by Hershey.
Despite his 6-foot-3, 211-pound frame, Robertson isn’t known to be a physical player.
According to those who have watched Robertson closely, he occasionally is overmatched.
Robertson, who on Wednesday described himself as a defensive-minded defenseman who likes to jump on the rush, has 34 points (six goals and 28 assists) in 122 AHL games.
“Little things in my head, just trying to stay calm,” Robertson said when asked how he remains positive. “That’s a big part of me, when I’m playing confident, I’m playing my best game. I think last year was a good stepping stone of really figuring out how I need to play and knowing when to simply. Just finding my game.”
In the NHL, prospects can put it all together in an instant.
There’s no rhyme or reason to it, sometimes something will just click.
Robertson is certainly capable of finding his footing and figuring it out.
Taking into consideration that a global pandemic hit in the middle of his crucial development years, and he was limited to just 22 WHL games in 2020-21, Robertson may have just needed a couple of years to readjust.
The belief is that Robertson has the right attitude to make a change.
The Rangers have been waiting.
This will be a make-or-break season for Robertson