Closing fast on his 28th birthday, Buddy Robinson’s goal hasn’t changed.
He’s still focused.
He’s still persevering.
“I still want to play in the NHL,” says the rangy winger, from his off-season home base in New Jersey. “I still believe I can play in the NHL.
“That ambition, that belief, never changes.
“I know I’m not exactly a prospect anymore. I also know how the game works with young guys and call-ups and that stuff.
“So all I can do is go out every night and make an impression and when the time comes, if they need a bigger guy to play a bottom-six role and I’m playing well at the time, hopefully it’s my call. My turn.
“That’s why I signed in Calgary. That’s why I continue to play the game: To play at the highest level. That aim never changes.”
Inked to a two-year deal on July 2, 2018, the 6-foot-6, 232-lb. right winger finished fourth in Stockton Heat scoring with 42 points over 65 outings last season, while tying for second in plus-minus, a +10.
“The first characteristic that stands out with Buddy is the speed and his ability to disrupt plays,” praises Heat boss Cail MacLean.
“His forechecking ability, his long stick, his intuition. Despite having a season where his goal production was down from the previous year, he was still effective.
“What you don’t see on any stat sheet is that he was instrumental in a lot of areas in terms of puck recovery, sustaining offensive pressure. Because he’s the one getting to loose pucks or creating loose pucks.
“It’s always a good sign when teammates want to play with a certain player. Well, Buddy’s teammates recognize that quality in him. They recognize that he’s a guy who can create opportunities and sustain offensive possession through his assets.
“That’s a quality that doesn’t show up on any scoresheet but is still an important factor in what is, of course, a very fast game.”
Heading into his seventh pro season, the undrafted product from Bellmawr, N.J. – a buddy (sorry for the pun) of Johnny Gaudreau‘s since they were both little duffers – has certainly paid his dues.
And then some.
Through a few seasons with the Ottawa Senators AHL farm club in Binghamton, the East Coast League Elmira Jackals, then back to the ‘A’ as a part of both the San Jose Barracuda and Manitoba Moose before joining the Calgary organization and being assigned to Stockton.
His NHL resume is brief, seven games, all contested for the Sens.
“For me, I try and make every line or every teammate I play with feel more comfortable,” says Robinson. “As an older guy, it’s definitely important when you’re on a team in the American league to fit in with everyone because one minute you’re on the first line and the next the fourth.
“Making everybody around me even a little bit better is a characteristic I pride myself on.
“Being part of a successful organization is so important because everyone loves a winner. So coming together as a team in the minors can do nothing but help individuals.”
That camaraderie means you support your teammates, even if they get the call-up instead of you.
“Look, you spend every minute of a season with these guys. So when they get a chance, when they go up, you’re definitely happy for them and wish them nothing but the best.
“Obviously there’s a little bit of competitive jealousy there because everyone wants to be that guy. But that doesn’t in any way mean you’re not happy for them.”
“There are no off nights in the minors – in Stockton or wherever you are – because there are always people watching. People say ‘Oh, it’s just the minors …’ I don’t think a lot of people understand the competitiveness every single night in the American league.
“You’ve got older vets who’ve been around a while and played 400-500 NHL games and still love the game so much and you’ve got 20-year-olds who come out of junior right next to them.
“You need to be playing well at the right time and the right people need to see you. If not with one team, then with another.
“As long as you’re playing your game, trust in that, it’s all you can do.”
Robinson continues to believe in himself and his ambition of becoming a day-to-day NHLer, his inner drive unsullied by disappointment.
He was, in point of fact, called up by the Flames on Dec. 20 of this past season, as an injury precaution, but returned to Stockton 96 hours later without having suited up.
“I still love every minute of it,” he assures you. “As I said, I realize I’m not the youngest prospect anymore but the last couple years I feel more comfortable with my game and the type of player I am than ever before.
“So for me, if I’m 30 years old and cracking the NHL that doesn’t make it any less a dream come true. Some guys make it when they’re 20 and others when they’re 28, 29.
“I’ll keep playing until someone tells me I can’t.
“So you and I, we might be having this conversation again 10 years from now.”