9/11 baby was tough from Day One
by Andrew Podnieks|27 DEC 2019
Team USA’s Nicholas Robertson with a scoring chance against Canadian goaltender Nicolas Daws.
photo: Andrea Cardin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Lost in the much-deserved hoopla of yesterday’s sensational Canada-United States game was the play of American forward Nicholas Robertson. To be sure, the storylines were many, from Alexis Lafreniere’s sensational winning goal, to the U.S. 2-0 lead and Canada’s steamrolling to a seemingly 4-2 win. But it was Robertson who keyed an unexpected U.S. rally midway through the third period.
Barrett Hayton had scored midway through the third to give Canada what looked to be a solid two-goal lead, but less than two minutes later Robertson scored a great goal to get the U.S. right back into it. He made a toe drag on defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker in the slot, and in the same motion rifled a hard shot that beat goalie Nicolas Daws cleanly. 
Four minutes later, on a power play, Robertson made an all-but-impossible feed through the crease to Shane Pinto, who merely had to re-direct the puck into the empty back side of the net to tie the game. A sure loss became a possible overtime game (until Lafreniere’s magic just seven seconds later) thanks to two gems from Robertson.
Coach Scott Sandelin gave Robertson 19:11 of ice time in the game, second most among U.S. forwards after Jack Drury (20:17). As always, Robertson earned every shift. At 5’9” and 164 lbs., he is not a big and intimidating presence, but his work ethic and ambition to get the most out of himself is undeniable. He’s having a sensational year in the OHL with the Peterborough Petes, having scored 23 goals in 22 games prior to joining the U.S. team at training camp earlier this month.
Drafted 53rd overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs this past June, Robertson is on track to make it to the NHL in the next couple of years. It’s a pretty amazing feat given that his family didn’t know he’d make it a week or a month in this world.
Robertson was born on the darkest day in modern U.S. history – September 11, 2001. But although he came into the world in Pasadena, California, far away from tragedy in New York and Philadelphia, he was born three months premature with lungs that didn’t fully open. He was on life support for six weeks and in intensive care for three months, proving himself a fighter from day one, and in time he came to love hockey, just like his older brother Jason.
When Nicholas Robertson was nine the family moved to Michigan to help the boys focus on developing their game, and a few years after that they moved to Toronto so he could play in the GTHL, a common steppingstone to junior hockey. 
Nicholas Robertson was never part of the U.S. under-18 program, but after two years with the Petes he was invited to the Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan this past August. He played well there and despite a broken finger earlier this OHL season earned an invite to the final World Junior camp. 
Once he made the team, he could share the joy with Jason, who was drafted by the Dallas Stars in 2017 and helped the U.S. win silver at the U20 last year. So far, so good in Ostrava for Robertson. He fought to live in this world, fought to make every level of hockey despite being a small player, and fought to get drafted.

Soon enough he will fight for a roster spot at a Maple Leafs' training camp. Fans will be hearing plenty more about Robertson, so watch him closely now so you can say you saw how a prospect developed into a star.
USA's Nicholas Robertson with a backhand shot before Canada's Quinton Byfield.
photo: Andrea Cardin / HHOF-IIHF Images