When the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Nick Robertson 53rd overall in June, the feeling was he might make Team USA for the World Junior Championships, but he might not. The team has taken some heat in the past for overlooking Americans who play junior hockey in Canada, but lately, that’s becoming as common as Canadians playing in the NCAA, and it just can’t be a barrier anymore.

Today Team USA has named their WJC preliminary roster, and Robertson, just back from a broken finger, is on the list.

Making the team seemed doubtful back at the draft because his only previous trip to a high-level event on his national team was the U18 Hlinka Gretzky Cup in 2019 where he had five points in five games. He played on a line with Arthur Kaliyev of the Hamilton Bulldogs at that event, and the pair of them teamed up at the World Junior Summer Showcase after the draft. Kaliyev, drafted 20 spots ahead of Robertson, was assumed to be a lock for Team USA before that event began, possibly because he was coming off a 102 point season in the OHL, or maybe because he’s 6’2”.

By the time the WJSS was over, it sure looked like Robertson had made his case. What he’s done since in Peterborough this year in the OHL — 21 goals and 11 assists in 20 games (1.6 points per game) — has just been a very, very think layer of icing on the cake for Robertson. Kaliyev is still lighting it up at an ever better pace with 1.8 points per game (7th in the OHL to Robertson’s 12th). If the two of them play together again, watch out world. They seem like the perfect combo of skills.

Will he make the final cut? That’s the next question  he has to answer. There are preliminary games in the Czech Republic, host of the 2020 WJC, that begin in mid-December. The WJC begins, as always, on December 26 and Team USA opens against Team Canada.