Tristen Robins – C – Saskatoon Blades
Central Scouting didn’t rate him pre-season.
134th NA – Midterm rankings
86th NA – Final rankings
14th in WHL scoring
3rd in First Year Draft eligible scoring
Monster second half with 54 points in 33 games.
Who is Tristen Robins? Drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 WHL Draft by the Regina Pats. Traded to Saskatoon when Regina loaded up as the Memorial Cup hosts a few years ago. I was able to talk on the phone for a while with Tristen. Let’s talk to the Saskatoon Blades star and get a sense of who he is before we turn to some video analysis.
Just to start, last year you had someone on your team who was a top prospect and it kind of forced you lower in the lineup, what were your expectations and aspirations for yourself going into this year compared to last?
I think this year losing a couple players and obviously our number one guy in Kirby, gave a pretty big opportunity for myself playing. I played a bit of wing at the start because we still had Florchuk in our lineup. He got traded and I started to play centre a little bit more. I really have no issue playing either position, left wing, right wing, or centre. I just wanna get on the ice in whatever way opens up more opportunity for myself.
Do you see yourself as a C moving forward?
Yeah. I enjoy taking faceoffs. I don’t know why. I guess it’s because I’m super competitive. I don’t really have any issues swapping back and forth or to play one certain position so either one I’d be totally happy with. I don’t have any issue jumping around the lineup.
I noticed as well that when it comes to PP time sometimes you take the faceoffs and sometimes you don’t. Is there a reason for that?
Chase Wouters was our best faceoff guy this year… so if we were trying to do a set play then he would be in there. Otherwise, I’d probably end up taking the faceoff. If he was, then it was usually a set play to get a quit hitter off the draw.
I know (on the PP) you like to get in close and pull a drag move for deception or to change the angle. Is that something you worked on quite a bit?
Yeah that was something I kind of focused on in the summer with my skating coaches not only with shots but with my movement through the neutral zone. Deception of speed. Pulling and shooting. It obviously gives you a better angle to shoot the lower you get. It gives you a better look at the net. Pulling it even a few inches could ultimately lead to a goal. Giving that little bit of deception could be super beneficial.
It seems like you look for those things; you look to get screens and look to be deceiving. Do you feel like that’s accurate?
Yeah, for sure. I think it’s super hard on the goaltenders and talking with Meier (Saskatoon goalie) as well. Him and I kinda work on stuff like that in practice at the ends. But yeah, shooting through a screen and giving the goalie an extra half second where he can’t see the puck could be the only thing you need to put the puck in the net.
This is obviously a weird time right now. What does training look like for you currently?
Right now we’re actually in a pretty good home gym setup given all the circumstances. I got a squat rack, a bench, some dumbbells, some resistance bands, a peloton bike, a chin up bar, and doing my best to stay in shape. It’s been good actually. It’s nice having a bit of time to ourselves. My dad has been working out with me so it’s been a lot of fun.
During the season, how much did you think about the draft, between 1-10?
Uhh, I’d maybe say a 6 out of 10. It’s something that’s always in your mind but then again you kinda wanna stay in the moment and not think about things that aren’t in your control. Just looking on taking everything day by day and not looking too far ahead. Ultimately you can control your play but you can’t control the opinion of others.
Now that the season is done, has that changed?
I think maybe a little bit given the circumstances. All of us have nothing but time right now. Could be good. Could be bad. You’re just stuck alone with your thoughts. But I’m super excited for whenever the draft will be. I’m just doing what I can to maintain this edge on the competition.
You got a lot of time with Kyle Crnkovic and at times it seems like the offence just flowed. What do you think works so well with you guys?
Absolutely. I think we are both smart playmaking forwards that find each other on the ice and when we were put together I feel like our chemistry was next level. The good thing about that too is that it’s good to have that chemistry on the ice but it’s just as important to have that chemistry off the ice. Him and I were good buddies. We would always be giving positive feedback and some criticisms to each other; never taking it to heart. I think that’s what was so good for us, just our relationship both on and off the ice.
Do you consider yourself a playmaking forward?
I do consider myself a playmaking forward but I have a super high drive to score. I do see myself as a pass first kind of forward but it could be taken either way.
It seemed like in December you really started to get rolling. (He had 54 points in 33 games from December on)What was the biggest change?
Yeah, I think when we got back from the US swing, that was the biggest drag, not only for me but for our group. We lost seven straight games so it was kind of hard. It felt like we weren’t gonna win a game for the rest of the season but once we got back I feel like my confidence and drive went through the roof. I tried to worry about my game and try to prove myself. They changed up the lines quite a bit too. Getting Fasko-Rudas and I think having him on my line with Kyle was really good for us. It’s easier to keep that chemistry when you’re winning.
What are some of the attributes you pushed this year personally where looking back you can tangibly say, “That had a big difference.”?
I’d probably say my skating and my awareness around the ice. I feel like it improved a lot from last year, just kind of knowing where my linemates were and holding onto the puck for a few extra seconds. You know, waiting for a lane or waiting for an opportunity to drive in. I feel like I got a lot quicker and a lot more explosive and that ultimately led to more success.
Holding onto the puck a little longer. Is that more systems or gut reaction for you?
It’s more gut reaction and kinda knowing where the pressure is. Reading whether he’s on your right shoulder or left shoulder or trying to pin you to the boards. It can give you a few more options and puck possession is huge. Reading the play and seeing if a center is cheating on you or a couple defenders coming at you and looking for the one man open. Just reading the game and trying to comprehend it a little quicker.
It also doesn’t seem you’re scared of anyone on the ice. You’ll look to tie up or throw a little hit to gain space on pretty much anyone. Is that an important part of your game?
For sure. I feel like I’m at my best when I’m actually engaging physically. I have a pretty gritty edge to my game at times and I think that is what kinda sets me apart from other skill based forwards. I’ll finish my checks and mix it up a little bit. I think it also creates space for me as well.
Scouts have to try to fully understand who you are now and the way you play, while at the same time project what you’re gonna be like down the road. What do you think are going to be your defining attributes in 4-5 years?
I think my skating. I think I have an exceptional skating ability and hopefully it is going to only get better. I’m gonna work on that. I think what else is going to be defining for me and set me apart from other players is my drive and competitiveness. I think little one on one battles or even face offs… it’s a chance to be competitive and win a battle.
Who do you hate playing against in the WHL.. in a very nice love/hate kind of way?
Super love/hate relationship with Prince Albert. You love to play them and you hate to lose to them. And also Everett. We only played them twice and they beat us pretty badly both times (Once last year, once this year). Their systems are impeccable. It’s funny because we have the same systems. They were just so sound defensively and they capitalized on our mistakes. They did a 1-2-2 trap the whole time. We couldn’t break out of our own end. (chuckle)
Any particular players? You know those players are so good and that competitive edge comes out? You maybe think to yourself, “I wanna win this shift.”
Playing against Prince Albert. They have Wiesblatt (19th NA Ranking, Central Scouting) and Guhle (8th NA rankings) and playing against those guys I feel like I brought so much extra drive. I wanted to out compete them every chance I got and prove that I should be picked higher than them. I love playing against them. I love finishing my checks against them. Every aspect of those games.
Video – Prince Albert @ Saskatoon – Feb 28th
Skating. Awareness. Puck possession. Physicality. Deception.
Those are the aspects we talked about so I decided to use Prince Albert vs Saskatoon as a baseline. I could jump all over to multiple games to show you highlights from Tristen; the true best of the best, but I figure, if you’ve never got to see him play, I’d rather show you a glimpse of what he’s like in one game.
Early in the first period, Tristen spots a teammate down the ice and attempts a long saucer pass that gets picked up. Don’t worry though. He gathers it once again, turns back, and shows his acceleration while attacking the middle of the ice.
As the puck rims around the boards, we can see a quality battle between him and 6’3 defender Kaiden Guhle. He ends up drawing a penalty. You can see that grit which Tristen referenced. He doesn’t like to back down when he is battling for a puck.
On the PP, Tristan works with the defenseman trying to opening up a shooting lane. Tristen has fast hands and believable movements. Watch Tristen fake, draw the defender out, and deliver a pass to open up space for a shot.
This clip is a mixed bag. Tristen shows off his high level acceleration keeping a puck in along the blueline, but then gives the puck away with a pass. However, it allows him to show off his acceleration again. Terrific recovery that ultimately goes back down the ice and leads to a goal. 1-0 Saskatoon
This might be my personal favorite play. Dump the puck. Chase the puck. Gain position on defender. Create scoring chance. Talk about an individual effort made possible by skating and awareness.
Behind the net, Tristen gets defenders chasing him with his quick edgework. Creates another high-danger scoring chance. In our interview, Tristen talked about how his skating will be the difference maker for him in 4-5 years. Can you see it?
In a 1-1 game getting late into the third period, Tristen decides to take matters into his own hands when the puck is turned over. Quick acceleration, waits for the defender to take away vision from the goalie, pulls and shoots. 2-1 Saskatoon.
Tristen seals the deal with the eventual game winner.
Tristen’s skating ability allows him to be aggressive offensively while also being incredibly responsible in his own zone.
His defensive awareness allows him to pounce on loose pucks and immediately become a weapon by putting pressure on the defense.
His edgework and acceleration allows him to be elusive behind the net with possession.
His deception allows him to draw attention and open passing lanes.
His physicality allows him to battle for possession in tough areas against bigger opponents.
These are all attributes that can be seen as difference makers in one game. He does this consistently every night.
So, what do you think of the Saskatoon forward?
Check out my rankings of WHL forwards HERE if you missed it.
Follow along the journey on twitter at @dathockeydoe
Joel Henderson – Covering WHL and Calgary Flames prospects.