Jason Robertson Is Our New Scoring King
2:00 PM EST on November 29, 2022
The NHL's club of prolific goal scorers do not often welcome new members into their ranks. Take a look at the leaderboards of the last decade and you'll see the same names at and around the top over and over and over again: Alex Ovechkin, Auston Matthews, Leon Draisaitl, and Connor McDavid. They set the standard every year, and only a lucky few men putting up their own career-best numbers can briefly earn the privilege of their temporary company.
But a lovable, exciting young challenger to the throne has emerged in the first quarter of this NHL season—one who's been putting pucks in the net more regularly than even the game's most entrenched and consistent superstars. His name is Jason Robertson.
The 23-year-old left winger plying his trade down in Dallas has followed up on a strong rookie year, and an extremely good second season, by staking his claim as the most dangerous scorer in the entire league. His 19 goals so far are unmatched—two ahead of McDavid and Vancouver's Bo Horvat and five ahead of the next-highest dudes.
Even though Connor scored on Monday night in the Oilers' OT win over the Panthers, Robertson kept his advantage by snatching a goal against the Blues that was equal parts grit and skill. Defending in his own zone, Robertson pushed his skates together to block a shot from St. Louis's Niko Mikkola. As the puck went careening down to the other side of the ice, No. 21 deployed the nitro and accelerated faster than any of his opponents. He caught up to it at the top of the faceoff circle and barely hesitated as he fired a wrister past Jordan Binnington for a late 3-1 lead.
This was Robertson's 16th straight game with either a goal or an assist, the second-longest streak in Stars/North Stars history. But while the regularity of his contributions goes beyond what anyone has a right to expect, it's been clear for a while now that this Michigander-by-way-of-California would be a critical piece of the franchise's future. After making his debut with a three-game call-up in February of 2020—becoming just the third NHL player of Filipino descent in the process—Robertson gradually earned more and more ice time through the abridged 2021 campaign and eventually became one of the team's most potent weapons. His 17 goals and 45 points were second only to Joe Pavelski, and during the full season in 2021-22, he got all the way up to 41 goals, forming a dynamic duo with another electric young Stars forward, Roope Hintz.
Since signing a four year, $31 million new contract a week before this season's opener, Robertson's finishing touch has remained impeccable, and so often it's been his stick earning credit for the most dramatic late-game goals of this Stars season. His 15 even-strength goals, versus just four on the power play, indicate that he can function even on crowded ice. And though he's presumably going to regress a bit and not score 68 goals this year, Robertson does seem to posses an assured mastery around the net that goes beyond simple puck luck. Personally, I loved the determination and concentration he showed in this goal last week, as he stuffed the puck in even after he was shoved down by a defender.
I'm also willing to officially declare him a Hockey Sweetie. Look at all the puppies!
The Stars, who have made a habit out of hanging on the edge of the playoff chase and being a tough out in the years they do make it, are riding an especially strong start to this year, with a 13-6-4 record that puts them at the top of the Central. More than a few guys deserve credit for this—goalie Jake Oettinger has built upon a star-making performance against Calgary last spring in the first round, and longtime captain Jamie Benn is starting hot after several years on the decline. But nobody is more meaningful in Dallas than this stacked top line of Pavelski, Hintz, and Robertson—an elder statesman who knows how to win, a blur from Finland who can instantly spark excitement from malaise, and this confident, intelligent kid who already feels like a fully formed MVP candidate even as his age says he can get even better. When these guys have been on the ice together this year, they've made the scoring more lopsided than any other trio in the NHL. For Dallas, specifically, this little stat neatly sums up their value: In 229 minutes of action for this line at 5-on-5, Dallas has scored 20 goals and allowed six. In 707 minutes without any of them out there, they've scored just 30 and allowed 32.
I've rarely if ever known what to make of this Stars generation, and I'm not sure I'm ready to start now. The lack of depth is an obvious concern; the defense misses John Klingberg, who left as a free agent this summer; sooner or later Pavelski is going to have to succumb to his age (or just straight-up leave this offseason); and the amount of money they have tied up in guys who are past their prime will continue to be a problem. I don't envy GM Jim Nill and the puzzle he has to solve, but he sure as hell made some fantastic draft choices in the middle of last decade, and now he can savor the fruits of that foresight. With the transcendence of Robertson right now, and the way that top line can go out and flatten any defense when the Stars need a goal, all of Dallas's present concerns have to feel very small in comparison.
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