Rangers sign Robertson

Sherwood Park's Matthew Robertson poses after being selected 49th overall by the New York Rangers during the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 22 in Vancouver, Canada. This week he officially signed with the team. Kevin Light/Getty Images

Share Adjust Comment Print

Sherwood Park product Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman Matthew Robertson earned a world of experience in a just a few weeks with the New York Rangers.

And they must have liked what they saw because the NHL team officially signed Robertson with an entry-level contract this week on Tuesday, Oct. 8.

“Extremely excited to have signed my first NHL contract with @nyrangers! Can’t thank everyone enough for helping me get to this point,” Robertson wrote on Instagram.

In their announcement, the Rangers outlined Robertson was a great fit for them and his stats speak for themselves. The 18-year-old was a second-round pick of the Rangers — 49th overall.

“Robertson, 18, has skated in three games with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL) this season. He has skated in 129 career WHL games over parts of four seasons (2016-17 – 2019-20), all with Edmonton, registering 14 goals and 44 assists for 58 points, along with 74 penalty minutes,” the Rangers detailed in a press release on Tuesday. “The 6-4, 201-pounder tied for second among WHL defensemen in their U18 season or younger in points in 2018-19 (only trailing Bowen Byram).”

Sherwood Park defenseman signed his first NHL contract with the New York Rangers on Tuesday, Oct. 8.Instagram

Robertson’s international experience also put him on the radar with four points in five games to take gold with Canada at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, two assists representing Canada at the 2018 IIHF U18 World Championship, six points in five games with the Canada-Black team at the 2017 World Hockey Challenge, where he was also named Tournament All-Star for leading all defenseman in the tournament for points.

Robertson recently returned from his first NHL camp.

“It was a lot of fun, it was a really good experience, a good learning experience overall,” Robertson said. “I learned a lot. It was pretty exciting being at my first NHL training camp and I took a lot just watching other players and how they conduct themselves. I was able to bring a lot back.”

Robertson attended the Rangers rookie camp and played in four games before earning an invite to main camp. He was able to get into an exhibition game, on the road, against the Philadelphia Flyers.

“That was unbelievable, it was a really cool experience,” Robertson said “I was pretty nervous, but it was cool to get that first one under my belt. It was a good learning experience. It was cool playing in an NHL rink and with some guys you grew up watching.

“I think the first day or two I was pretty overwhelmed at training camp just skating against guys that you watch on TV and grew up watching and it was just cool to be on the ice with them and competing against them.”

Now back with the Oil Kings Robertson is looking to take another giant step in his development. The Edmonton product is heading into his third full season with the Oil Kings. He had seven goals and 33 points in 52 games last season and added four goals and four assists in 16 playoff games as the Oil Kings made it to the Eastern Conference Final.

“He brings us depth, veteran leadership and the experiences he’s had being in the league already,” said Oil Kings head coach Brad Lauer. “He’s been through a lot in the WHL already, like four of our defencemen have. It’s an experienced group that we have back there and he brings that skating, that puck-moving ability, the big body, the big shot, he can play on the power play and the penalty kill. He just brings a lot more depth to our back.”

Getting through the pressure of his draft year last season, Robertson joins the Oil Kings this year more relaxed, knowing where his NHL future lays.

“During your draft year you try not to think about it, but there is still a little bit of weight on your shoulders,” Robertson said. “I think this year, there is a lot less weight on my shoulders. That can help with the mental part of things and just going out there and being clear-minded on the ice.”

With a strong core of returning players, the Oil Kings are looking to win the WHL Central Division title for the second straight season and go on an even longer playoff run. The strength of the Oil Kings this season is on their blue line where they have returned everyone from last season.

“Last year we had a good push and I think we just got our toes wet and got a feel of what playoff hockey is like,” Robertson said. “I think coming in this year, our goal has to be to go all the way.”

A year older, stronger and more experienced, Robertson will likely play a big part in how far the Oil Kings go this season. He is going into his junior hockey prime having been selected seventh overall by the Oil Kings in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.

“I think he just has to relax and just play the game he’s capable of playing,” Lauer said. “He doesn’t need to be something super, he just needs to be that steady defenceman that he is — that puck-moving defenceman, that first pass kind of guy, who knows when to join the rush. He doesn’t need to complicate the game, just keep it simple and choose the spots when he needs to go up on offence and he’ll be fine, he’ll have a good year.”

— With files from Lindsay Morey