This is a series profiling members of the Hurricanes’ 2021 draft class. Justin Robidas is the fifth profile in this series.
Justin Robidas has some major shoes to fill. His father, Stephane Robidas, appeared in 937 NHL games over the course of his career and was the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Director of Player Development from 2017-2021. Robidas’ 2020-21 season saw him score 19 goals and record 36 points in 35 games in addition to 10 points in 14 playoff games. This led to Robidas hearing his name called by the Hurricanes in the fifth round, 147th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft.
And then there's the fact that Robidas fires off some absolute laser beams pic.twitter.com/J9Skk0ISCx— Canes Prospects (@CanesProspects) September 8, 2021
Robidas’ shot is his best asset, no doubt about it. I’d argue that his shot is NHL ready given how quick his release is, how quick the shot itself is and how accurate it is. Robidas is a sniper and a scoring threat from just about anywhere in the offensive zone. He isn’t overly flashy with his shot fakes or dekes but he doesn’t have to be since the shot itself is elite. Robidas will find the smallest amount of space and wire a quick snap shot through traffic and pick a corner with ease. I would argue that Robidas is one of the best shooters in the Hurricanes’ pipeline, right up there with the likes of Noel Gunler.
It’s a hard shot and QMJHL goalies had a tough time stopping his shots even when they got a clean look at it. Robidas likes to fire off snap shots with a lightning fast release, making it tougher for goalies to react to his shot. There are times when he’ll hold onto the puck a split second longer than expected, force the goalie to make a move and then shoot where the goalie left an opening. Robidas can create a bit of space to shoot using simple toe drags, giving him just enough room to work with in order to generate a scoring chance. Here’s one more clip, just to remind you all that Robidas can, in fact, shoot the puck.
Robidas’ top speed is impressive, which has to be the case if he wants to have a shot at making it to the NHL. Robidas stands at 5-foot-7, meaning that he has a disadvantage in terms of reach. He has to work almost twice as hard as other players in order to keep up and make an impact in all three zones. Robidas isn’t just able to keep up, though. He’s a quick skater that can beat most QMJHL defensement and get in passing lanes in the defensive zone. He’s quick on the rush, a good forechecker and an important part of Val-D’Or’s two-way game. All of that has to do with his skating. Robidas will need to get a step or two faster in order to keep the pace against better competition, but that can easily be developed over time with the Hurricanes’ skating coaches. At this point in time, Robidas is a quick skater that can play at a high pace, making it difficult for the opposition to stop him once he gets going.
Robidas plays at a high pace and is aggressive on the puck, constantly trying to force opponents to make a mistake and turn the puck over. He’s pretty good at it, too. There are times where he’ll intercept a pass because a defender got careless or was pressured into making that pass. Robidas will then try and turn it into a scoring chance. His reach will always limit how many passes he can intercept, but he’ll be able to force players to make careless mistakes any time they try and exit the zone. I wouldn’t say that Robidas is a Brad Marchand level of pest when he’s in the offensive zone but he’s a pain to play against nonetheless.
Putting the finishing touches on the Justin Robidas profile. He may be small, but I like how he protects the puck and takes it to the middle of the ice here. pic.twitter.com/vqchl8bROA— Canes Prospects (@CanesProspects) September 8, 2021
I’m going to couple Robidas’ puck carrying abilities with his skating because they go hand in hand in a lot of ways. Defenders try and knock Robidas off of the puck, but he’s certainly not a lightweight. In fact, he has a surprising amount of muscle for a kid his size and he’s able to protect the puck and carry it to a safer area before making a pass to avoid a turnover. Robidas can protect the puck in double coverage, which isn’t something that most players his size are able to do. The clip above shows just that. Robidas is able to not only protect the puck, he’s able to get to the middle of the ice, pass the puck and get in position to score on the rebound. Little plays like that and the following clip make me think that Robidas’ size isn’t going to be a concern if he makes it to the NHL.
Robidas has a surprising amount of strength for a kid his size and it's a huge factor on this goal pic.twitter.com/PYPcwYfPjG— Canes Prospects (@CanesProspects) September 8, 2021
He holds onto the puck long enough for his teammate to enter the zone. There isn’t a lot of space for Robidas to work with and all the defender has to do is push him over the blue line to nullify any sort of offense. Robidas keeps that play alive with his strength.
Robidas can see where a teammate’s shot will end up and move to put home a rebound. He wants to score and will move himself to the best possible position to do so. I would say that Robidas sees the ice at an average to slightly above average level and can usually anticipate an offensive play before it happens. I saw Robidas’ hockey sense on full display in the offensive zone. He would move past defensemen that got puck focused and would be wide open for a tap in goal at the back door. He’d make a cross-ice pass to a player that was making his way past defensemen for a scoring chance. And like I said earlier, Robidas would always know where a rebound was going to land and he’d be right there in order to get a second shot off.
Robidas showed some glimpses of high levels of hockey sense in the defensive zone, although there were more gaps in his decision making. I noticed a number of times when he’d react to a play and intercept a pass, leading to a breakaway or odd man rush on multiple occasions. Those usually wound up as goals, too. Robidas can lose his man on occasion, but for the most part, he sees the ice well in the defensive zone and can be relied upon to kill penalties and be an above average defensive forward. A player of his size getting PK minutes isn’t necessarily unheard of, but it’s a rarity.
Robidas isn’t a fantastic passer and I noticed many times where his breakout passes would be intercepted and lead to long shifts in the defensive zone. While he isn’t limited to simple passes, I rarely saw a pass from Robidas that I wasn’t able to expect. That’s to be expected from a sniper. Robidas might only be an average passer at the NHL level. That’s not a make or break thing for a prospect, but it is something that I’d like to see him improve upon if he is going to make it to the NHL someday. His shot is a fantastic passing tool because even if a goalie stops it, it’s not likely that they’ll be able to stop it without giving up a rebound in the process. I was able to see a handful of occasions where Robidas would shoot and a teammate would attempt to put home the rebound. Robidas sees the ice well enough to become an above average passer and make more of an impact in the offensive zone beyond scoring goals. It may take some time, however.
Projectable Tools and Summary
Robidas could be an NHL player someday, but he is a project that will take at least four or five years to develop. The skills that I see translating directly to the NHL are his shot, skatingand hockey sense. There’s no question that Robidas’ shot is close to, if not already, NHL ready. He skates well and if he can continue to get quicker, he’ll be able to keep up and carve out a role for himself in the NHL. Robidas isn’t going to be the smartest player on the ice at any given moment, but he still sees the ice at a good enough level to be able to keep up at the NHL level.
Let’s talk about what Robidas needs to work on before he can become an NHL player. First off is his passing. I don’t see Robidas being a good enough passer at this present moment and he can turn the puck over in transition a lot. His shot is good enough to beat QMJHL goalies from a distance, but he’ll need to explore more passing options once he gets to higher levels of competition. Robidas needs work on faceoffs, too. I could see it becoming less of an issue as he matures and adds more muscle, but as of right now, he can get pushed around in the faceoff circle too often for my liking. It’s a smaller part of the game, but possession is important and winning those offensive draws can be critical for a team’s success.
Most importantly, I need Robidas to discover a higher level in his game. I was unable to pinpoint any particular moments where he was able to take over a shift and become the catalyst of Val-D’Or’s offense. This was a stacked team with a vast amount of NHL draft picks, so I’m willing to wait and see if Robidas becomes more of a dynamic presence when he’s not in the shadow of so many draft picks. In the games that I watched, Robidas did little to distinguish himself in the offensive zone beyond his shooting ability. He doesn’t stickhandle all that often, he won’t make flashy passes and you don’t see Robidas make too many players look out of position. He has a great shot that can beat goalies from almost anywhere and he’s an average passer that can chip in assists here and there, but I don’t see the top six upside that some scouts see. I absolutely see a top nine scorer if Robidas can hit all of the marks developmentally, though. He has the potential to score 20+ goals at the NHL level and become a key player on the Hurricanes’ power play. I could see Robidas being a 40+ point player if developed properly, but it’ll take time for him to reach his full potential.
I’ll be taking a break from the 2021 draft class until there’s more film available. Players on the list include Patrik Hamrla, Aidan Hreschuk, Jackson Blake, Bryce Montgomery and Nikita Guslistov. Prospect profiles will continue next week, however, with 2020 third-round pick Alexander “Boom” Nikishin. You’ll find out why that’s an apt nickname next week.