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Adapting to change just a way of life for Stars' Robertson

Through perspective and experience, the 2017 second-round pick continues to grow during a year of transition

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

It's been a year of growth for Jason Robertson.

The 20-year-old Stars prospect started 2019 at the World Junior Championship playing for Team USA, moved on to lead the OHL in scoring with 117 points in 62 games (playing for both Kingston and Niagara), went through NHL training camp with Dallas, and now is third on the Texas Stars in scoring as an AHL rookie.

That's a lot to digest.

But if anyone can do it, Robertson can. He was raised in a hockey family that used an RV to manage hockey practices and split time between California, Michigan and Ontario. He has already seen a lot in this world, so forging out into a pro career has been just one more step.

"I think a lot of it is experience," Robertson said. "I've met a lot of different people. I meet new people, new coaches, new teammates, and I think adapting is something I do very well. I've had a lot of practice with it."

Robertson's parents -- Hugh and Mercedes Robertson -- have four children. Jason was drafted 39th overall by the Stars in 2017. His brother, Nick, was drafted 53rd overall by Toronto in 2019. Older brother Michael also played hockey growing up, and the three had an interesting education in the sport and in life.

After getting their hockey start in Michigan, the family moved to California and continued to pursue the sport. To keep up with three different practices for three different brothers in the Los Angeles area, the Robertson's used an RV. While one son practiced, the other two would do homework or eat dinner. Then, it was onto the next stop.

Video: Behind the scenes of Development Camp with Robertson

"We had three boys playing hockey and four kids, so we were going to different rinks at different times for different practices or going all day or all weekend to tournaments, so we figured it would be best if we could just have a place for them to rest and study and eat," Hugh Robertson said. "It started out for tournaments, but then it became a benefit for practices. When one came in, the other one left, so it worked out."

Hugh explained the process while he watched his two sons participate in an NHL prospects tournament in Traverse City, Mich. in September. He said he's very happy that his hectic life turned out this way. The family actually moved back to Michigan to pursue hockey after their time in California and also have spent a great deal of time in Ontario.

"We're so fortunate to be able to do this," Hugh said. "It's been challenging, especially for my wife, because she's had to organize most of it, but it's great for our family. The boys are able to support each other and help each other, and that's been great for them."

Jason Robertson credits his family with a lot of his success. He said moving from Kingston to Niagara midseason last year because of an OHL trade wasn't that difficult. He said going to training camp in Dallas and then settling in the Austin area seems pretty normal to him.

"I know a lot of players who grew up in Ontario and played in Ontario, and they really haven't seen that much," Robertson said. "We're all over the world, and that's pretty special for us. We home-schooled from when I was 10 to 15, so I get to spend every day with my family. We're really close, we always keep in touch no matter how far apart we are. It's just a special feeling."

Jason Robertson very much wanted to make the NHL roster out of camp and he was one of the final cuts as the team got down to 23 players in October. He has now played 39 games in the AHL, and he said he is learning that the transition from the OHL to pro hockey is a challenging one.

Robertson had 48 goals and 69 assists in 62 games last season. He has 13 goals and 12 assists in 39 games with the Texas Stars.


"I think it's a lot more faster here -- a lot less times to make plays," Robertson said. "You've got to make plays a lot quicker, and there's always somebody behind you trying to steal a puck off you and there's always somebody in front of you trying to steal a puck off you. So, trying to create more space and gain more time to make plays is something that's really encouraged here, and I think I've progressed pretty well this season in doing that.

"I'm just going to keep going from there."

Robertson's biggest strengths are his hands and his vision. He is both a goal-scorer and a play-maker, and that fits in with what the Dallas Stars could use going forward. He's also listed at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, so he can take the pounding that comes with NHL play. That said, he understands that experience is a huge factor in making the next step.

"I think it's being a pro on the ice and off the ice," he said. "Off the ice, I think it's about taking care of myself -- it's a lot different than juniors -- so especially in the gym and that stuff. Being a good teammate is one thing I learned that goes a long way in not only this organization, but in hockey in general. I try to be the best teammate I can be off the ice and on the ice, I'm just working as hard as I can."

Being a patient member of the family during those many nights in the RV has helped a lot in that regard. Hugh Robertson said hockey has been a great way for everyone to build a bond.

"How often are you in the car at 4:30 in the morning, and it's 1-on-1? Or you're in a car for four hours and driving to a tournament?" Hugh said. "That's a great feeling, that's a great chance to talk and get to know each other. There's something special to going through all of this together."

Nick Robertson followed his brother's footsteps onto Team USA at world juniors this year and currently sits fifth among goal scorers in the OHL with 31 markers in 28 games for Peterborough. And you can be sure his older brothers know exactly what he's doing.

Video: Stars draft F Jason Robertson No. 39

Asked how he looks at his own career, Jason was philosophical.

"It's a long process. It's a little different," Jason Robertson said. "But my little brother got drafted this year, and believe it or not, I do look up to him even though he's my younger brother. Each of us looks at each other like a role model together. He pushed me this summer to try to be a good pro this year even though he's 18."

Jason Robertson said that having all of that information has helped him during this year of transition.

"I know that upper-management has a plan for me," he said. "If that's me going to be here for a little bit of time and preparing and becoming a better pro, that's how it's gonna be, and I'm just gonna keep working as hard as I can and wait until then.

"Having four years of junior experience and seeing all those players I played with in juniors move on to pro. I played with a few now-NHLers and seeing their process and their progression to get to the NHL, you kind of take and learn from it. But everyone has a different path and I'm glad to have had mine."

DallasStars.com manager Jeff Odom contributed.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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