CHICAGO – Jason Robertson’s thoughts went to the family RV when the Dallas Stars called his name and made him the 39th overall pick in the 2017 National Hockey League Draft on Saturday.
Robertson was a California kid – he and his brothers began seriously playing the game because his father and grandfather were Los Angeles Kings season ticket holders.
With L.A. being L.A. with its traffic jams and with three kids with different practice times, the Robertsons used an recreational vehicle that served as a mobile command center that ferried kids to practice, served as a classroom, and a locker room on wheels.
“We had a big RV,” said Robertson, who is of Filipino heritage. “The rink in Los Angeles, with traffic, was probably an hour and a half away. My little brother and older brother play hockey so their practices would be at 3 and mine would be at 6. We’d all go at 3 o’clock and wait for my practice at 6.”
The journeys in the RV, and playing youth hockey in Detroit and Toronto, paid off with Robertson being taken in the second round by the Stars after his stellar season for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League.
The 6-foot-2 left wing for the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs led the team in scoring in 2016-17 with 42 goals and 39 assists in 68 regular season games and tallied 5 goals and 13 assists in 11 OHL playoff games.
The NHL’s Central Scouting ranked Robertson as the 14th-best North American skater eligible for the draft. Scouts predicted that he could go anywhere from a late first-round pick to anywhere in the second or third rounds.
Hockey people gush over his scoring hands and hockey intelligence, but have concerns about his skating ability. They note that it takes too many strides for him to reach top speed.
“It’s something that people say – everyone needs to work on something,” he said. “Obviously, for me, I need to work on that. It’s an opportunity to get better.”
If Robertson reaches the NHL, he would join Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba as the latest players of Filipino descent to play in the league.
“It’s nice to see the diversity,” said Robertson, whose mother was born in the Philippines. “It was nice to see the guys picked ahead of me that have different ethnicites. It’s really special to have more guys coming in.”
And Robertson and Dumba could someday be joined by Robertson’s younger brother, Nick, a forward chosen by the OHL’s Peterborough Petes in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection draft April. He signed a contract to play with the Petes in May.
Jason said his younger brother is a good player, but he makes no bones about who is the better Robertson on the ice.
“I normally dressed my little brother up as a goalie and ripped five-hole on him,” the older Robertson said with a laugh.
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