The season hadn’t even started before Brandon Robinson had Rangers fans holding their collective breath. After an injury plagued second half last year, supporters were excited to see what the former Battalion forward could do healthy.
But that looked in jeopardy when the 19 year old took a nasty looking fall into the boards in a rookie tournament game at Detroit Red Wings camp. After a few tests, he was back on the ice, and Rangers Nation let out a sigh of relief. And with good reason: now that he’s healthy, Brandon’s finding the back of the net. He’s potted a career best 17 goals this season, he’s clicking with other offensive talents like Ryan MacInnis and Nick Magyar, and he’s coming into tonight’s game with four points in his last two games.
Brandon’s passion for the game started young, with his father Kevin, who played for the Ontario Hockey League’s Toronto Marlboros in the early 1980s, and was a fifth round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1983 draft. An injury forced him to hang up his skates after a few seasons in the minors, but dad passed his love of hockey on to his sons.
After starting on skates as soon as he could walk, Brandon started playing when he was just four years old. And by the time he hit his early teams, he had decided to make the sport his future with the help of his minor bantam coach.
“That was the first year that I had a coach that wasn’t just there to have fun. He was there to teach us stuff and get us all to the next level. He was the first one to start cracking down on the business side of it.”
So he ramped up his efforts as his OHL draft year drew closer, and caught the eye of the Battalion’s scouting staff. Brampton picked up the big-bodied winger in the first round (seventh overall) in 2011. Brandon didn’t have to move far from his home in Pickering, ON which made the adjustment to life as an underager in junior hockey easier.
“My first year in Brampton I played quite a bit for a 16 year old; I got some regular power play time and plenty of shifts. Stan [Butler] was always pretty fair with ice time, so it was a good situation to be able to go there and play a lot my first year, and not be benched or a healthy scratch.”
He also played for Team Ontario at the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge that year, where he got to know Rangers’ Head Coach Troy Smith. So, when the call came letting him know that he’d been traded to Kitchener in November 2013, he knew what the message from the coaching staff would be.
“Just to work hard – he expected the same thing from us [at the Under-17s]. If you work hard and give it your all every single day, he’s going to have no problems with you,” explains the Pickering, ON native. “Mistakes are going to happen – no one is perfect and everybody knows that, but as long as you’re working hard and it’s a hard mistake, you can work through that. I think that’s a great thing for players to have, the knowledge that if you work hard, no matter what, you’re not going to get in trouble.”
Robinson has certainly earned the coaches’ trust. One of the veteran players on the team, and healthy to boot, he has been logging time on the team’s top line. But he’s kept his modesty intact – after a three point effort on Friday night, he was quick to shrug off praise with a smile, preferring instead to focus on the team. With his laid back charm and camouflaged ball cap, he looks like your typical teenager. But on the ice, he has the grit and talent to get the job done.
“My goal is just to finish the season hard and do everything I can to help this team into a playoff spot. I think that’s the biggest goal for everyone on this team, just to get as far as we can in the playoffs. We’re such a young group, and I don’t think anyone is worried about us. But we know that we can compete!”