Stars’ Jason Robertson cements himself among NHL’s elite with remarkable season

Robertson has broken the franchise record for goals and points in a single season as he continues his ascension to the top of the NHL.

If someone asked you who the best players in the NHL are, who comes to mind?

Connor McDavid, obviously. Teammate Leon Draisaitl would be up there too. The reigning champs, Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar would make sense. The team they beat, the Tampa Bay Lightning, have Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Maybe even Brayden Point and Victor Hedman come to mind too.

The Leafs star duo of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are in that conversation. The most productive player on the best team in the league, David Pastrnak, is too. As is Matthew Tkachuk, arguably the best all-around winger in the league. Adam Fox is a stud on Broadway.

One player that probably doesn't get immediate consideration in this conversation? Jason Robertson. At this point, most casual fans will know who Robertson is and that he’s a good player. His pedigree isn’t off the charts, as he was a second round pick. He did, however, put himself on the map immediately with 45 points in 51 games in the Covid-shortened bubble season as a rookie, which earned him a Calder nomination (Kirill Kaprizov won). He followed that up with a 41-goal campaign last season.

Jason Robertson has quickly etched his name among the NHL's best players after a blistering start to his career. (Getty Images)
Jason Robertson has quickly etched his name among the NHL's best players after a blistering start to his career. (Getty Images)

The timing was perfect for Robertson as his entry-level contract was up. The stalemate went on a little longer than expected, but a week before the regular season was slated to begin, Robertson signed a four-year, $31 million deal ($7.75 million AAV). He will be an restricted free agent when the contract is up, with a qualifying offer of $9.3 million. It's already a steal.

Robertson has reached the 100-point mark in only his third NHL season, becoming the first player in Stars franchise history to achieve the milestone.

Since the start of the 2021-22 season, Robertson has the eighth-most goals in the league and the 12th-most points. All 11 players ahead of him average more ice time per game than Robertson. He has 26 more points than his next highest teammate, and linemate, Joe Pavelski. His other linemate, Roope Hintz, is second on the team in goals with 14 fewer tallies. Hintz and Pavelski are both All-Stars in their own rights. Robertson doesn’t drag his line around on his back, but he does put it all together with his shot and production.

This is noteworthy because you can argue this is the best line in the league, and he’s the most productive player on said line. The Robertson-Hintz-Pavelski line has the most 5-on-5 goals in the league, and accordingly have the highest expected goal rate too. Last season, they had the third most goals of any line in the league (the Gaudreau-Lindholm-Tkachuk line was first, followed by Bunting-Matthews-Marner).

Robertson's line is no slouch in its own end, either. Their goals against per 60 ranks 14th among all lines in the league that have played at least 200 minutes together, and Robertson, Hintz and Pavelski have played over 240 minutes more together than every line ahead of them.

High-end production on a high-end line. How does he do it? A few things stand out. He isn’t a highlight machine that’s going to score jaw-dropping goals, but he is a sniper through and through. The big knock on him in his draft year was his skating. He always had soft hands and he could always shoot, but the skating has come along and his game ascended along with it. Look at him race down the ice after blocking a shot late in a one-goal game before getting to the puck first and ripping one far post.

That’s a pretty difficult shot to make. He touches it twice, once with one hand on his stick to poke it from his backhand to his forehand, and then releases. He is flying as he does this and just rips a puck far side and in. A number of players wouldn’t dare try that while protecting a late lead in the third for fear of missing high and wide, which means the puck would rim around the boards and go the other way for a scoring chance.

When he has time to shoot, it’s effortless. He makes it look so easy that it might actually work to his detriment. Did his heart rate even go up here?

He has 12 power-play goals on the season and a lot of them look similar to that one — almost nonchalantly shooting it by everyone. Dallas' power play, ranked sixth, runs through him. He averages the most power-play time on the team and dictates the power play off the half-wall, both as a shooter and passer.

His playmaking ability in general is underrated. This touch pass is timed perfectly.

Robertson is only 23 and the game often looks like it’s in slow motion for him. In the next clip, he just calmly passes the puck behind his back and right on the tape for an easy goal.

He’s seeing the game steps ahead of what’s happening on the ice. The audacity to pass this puck is comical. This is a 40+ goal scorer passing up a good shooting opportunity in the slot to pass the puck through traffic, which ultimately led to a tap-in.

Who is thinking about passing in that situation? Especially when you’re a goal scorer like Robertson is.

Whether it's shooting or setting up teammates, the game always seems to be played at his pace. The puck finds him constantly, as it does all great players. The number of goals he scores off a scramble in front of and he just seems to find the puck to put it in the empty net is uncanny.

Last season was Robertson’s first foray into playoff hockey. The Stars grinded the Flames to seven games, ultimately losing in overtime. Robertson did score his first playoff goal and had four points in the series, which tied him for second on team scoring. It was a fine playoff performance, but he’s capable of so much more. Now with his feet under him and having taken another big step in his game, the table is set for him to do just that.

The Stars fancy themselves a contender this season, and rightfully so. They should have home ice advantage in the first round and the West is wide open. They have the best goals against average in the Western Conference and are only second to the Kraken in goals per game. To go along with their sixth-ranked power play, their penalty kill ranks third.

Robertson has established himself as one of the premier regular season producers on one of the league’s best lines. The next step now to get the attention he deserves will be to do it come playoff time.