By Leif Skodnick
Special To ECHL.com
Trenton Titans’ rookie left wing Brent Robinson can list the elements of his game he is looking to improve over the course of the season.
“One-on-one battles, physical play down low in the corners and my shot,” said Robinson, who has 37 points (15g-22a) in 46 games. “And I’m always working on my speed, trying to get faster and quicker, and make quick plays.”
The 6-1 and 195-pound Robinson has proved himself invaluable to the Titans in his freshman campaign, where his work ethic, attitude, and ability have earned him ice time as a top line forward, as well as on the power play and penalty kill.
“His work ethic is great. He got assigned here and came in with a great attitude which is half the battle anytime you have a guy on an AHL contract that gets sent to the ECHL,” stated Titans head coach Mike Haviland. “He’s in the learning stage of his career. This is his first year as a pro and having to play 72 games, so he will have ups and downs and will learn how to get through those things. He’s a young man who has a lot of skills and offensive ability. One of the biggest things for him is learning how to compete in the traffic areas.”
What impresses Haviland most about Robinson, however, is Robinson’s intelligence.
“He’s very versatile, but he’s a really smart player and sees the ice well, and that’s why we’ve used him on the special teams so much. That’s something that you really can teach hockey players, anticipation, and he certainly has a mind for the game in that way,” noted Haviland. “His playmaking ability has also helped him stay on the top two lines and the special teams units all year. If he continues to play smart, he’ll continue to get a lot of ice time here.”
Robinson, who ranks second on the team with 16 power-play points (5ppg-11ppa), attributes his success on special teams to one virtue: patience.
“I’ve played the power-play throughout my career, so I know what’s going on out there,” says Robinson. “It’s just a matter of patience with the puck, spotting the open guy and making good plays.”
Robinson, who played four seasons of college hockey, has enjoyed the transition to professional hockey so far.
“The transition has not been too bad and they treat you really well here. I have great teammates and coaches here in Trenton,” said Robinson, who scored 99 points (38g-61a) in 120 games at Brown University. “The biggest difference is the number of games. At Brown last year I played 31 games the entire season. This year 31 games is less than half of the season.”
Having enjoyed a successful rookie season thus far, including a five-game call-up to Philadelphia of the AHL, Robinson opened more eyes at the AHL and NHL levels with a grand performance in January at the 2005 Coors Light ECHL All-Star Game in Reading, Pennsylvania.
A last-minute replacement named to the National Conference All-Star team on January 21, five days before the All-Star Game, Robinson took advantage of his opportunity and scored two goals in the second period to lead the National Conference to a 6-2 win in the mid-season classic.
“It was pretty nice. It would have been nice if had gotten selected earlier, but it doesn’t make a difference,” smiled the rookie from Pointe Claire, Quebec. “I was just happy to be there and I wanted to make an impression, so I guess it worked out.”
“The league called me and said they’d like to add Brent Robinson to the All-Star team, and I thought it was great for him and great for our organization,” said Haviland, who made his second appearance as an All-Star coach. “A few people felt that he got overlooked, but not everybody can make it. He was given a chance and maybe opened some eyes with other AHL and NHL teams. That’s what the All-Star Game is for.”
Haviland sees a few areas where he thinks Robinson needs to improve, but he also points out that he sees a bright future for his young charge.
“He needs to get stronger because he gets knocked off the puck sometimes, but he’s going up 28- and 29-year-old men now,” stated the coach. “He has to work to get stronger for himself, but he is a skills guy who has the ability to score goals and be successful in the AHL.”