Joe Colborne’s Versatility Could Be Biggest Asset in Reaching NHL

Joe Colborne's Versatility Could Be Biggest Asset in Reaching NHL Continuing NESN.com's unveiling of our preseason Top 10 Prospects in the Bruins system, we take a look at No. 2, forward Joe Colborne.

Position: Center/Wing
Age: 20
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 216 pounds
Shoots: Left
Acquired: 2008 draft, first round (16th overall)

2009-10 stats
Denver (NCAA) 39 games, 22-19-41, plus-9, 30 PIMs; Providence (AHL) 6 games, 0-2-2, minus-8, 2 PIMs

Analysis
Colborne possesses an enticing blend of size and skill, especially now that he's begun to fill out his 6-foot-5 frame. He was a self-described "beanpole" when he was drafted in 2008 as a 190-pounder, but two years in the weight room at the University of Denver has helped him bulk up to 216 pounds. Now he just has to learn how to make the best use of that size.

He's not an overly physical or aggressive player, but he does use his body well to protect the puck. While he needs to improve on his consistency, Colborne has good hands, great vision and excellent hockey sense. That combination makes him a crafty playmaker, but he also possesses a strong shot and quick release, so he's also adept as a finisher.

A natural center, Colborne played most of last year on the wing, and with Boston's depth down the middle, a move out wide is probably his best bet to make the big club in the near future. That's not a problem for Colborne, who's willing to play any position to get a shot in the NHL. He's a left-handed shot but has played both wings, giving him even more versatility. He also showed great character and leadership at this summer's development camp. It was Colborne's third camp, and he took it upon himself to call the newcomers before camp to let them know what to expect, then served as a mentor to the younger campers during the week of drills and off-ice activities.

Notable
Exactly half of his goals last year at Denver came on the man advantage as he tallied 11 power-play goals, while also adding two short-handed strikes. … He is quickly earning a reputation as a clutch player, as eight of his goals last season were game-winners. In his draft year, he led the Alberta Junior Hockey League in playoff scoring with 8-8-16 totals in 18 games while leading Camrose to the league title. … That came after a breakout regular season in 2007-08 with 33-57-90 totals in 55 games. He finished his AJHL career with 53-85-138 totals in 108 games, then added 32-40-72 totals in 79 games in two seasons at Denver. … Got a head start on his pro career when he joined Providence for six games at the end of last season. He collected two assists in his debut, but did not have another point in the final five games and was minus-8, including a minus-4 in a 6-3 loss in the season finale at Lowell. … Despite his poor plus-minus in Providence, he was a strong two-way player in Denver, finishing a plus-14 in his two seasons. … Signed a three-year entry-level deal on March 29 with a cap hit of $1.1 million, including bonuses, if he makes the big club in Boston. … His father, Paul, played football at the University of Calgary and is the chairman of TriStar Oil and Gas in Alberta. Colborne's affluent background led many to doubt his work ethic and character during his draft year, but he has dispelled those notions with the leadership he's displayed and the dedication to his workout regimen he's shown in the last two years. … One of the top performers in this year's development camp, which he capped by scoring the only goal for his side in the final scrimmage. … He's attended the last three development camps, but this will be his first training camp, as he was unable to attend the last two years due to his college commitment.

Quotable
"If they told me if I played goalie I would be on the Bruins, then I would do that," said Colborne at development camp. "I played wing for probably 80 percent of this year [at Denver]. I feel comfortable there. I was a center growing up, but at the highest level I played I was at wing. Whatever they want me to do, I feel comfortable enough playing that position. And if that’s where the opening is, I’ll gladly take that any day to play in the NHL."

"It was perfect for what I needed," said Colborne of his time in Providence. "It was a great learning experience. It was a lot different style of game from what I was playing in the WCHA. That's kind of a wide-open league and we were playing on Olympic sheets a lot of the time. It was a lot of run and run. I noticed that the position in the pro game is a lot better. It's a lot higher level. They gave me every opportunity. I was on the power play. I played a couple penalty-kill shifts. I was playing a regular shift. It was awesome."

"I'm one of the older guys in [development] camp and I'm trying to take on more of a leadership role with the guys that just got drafted and give them a heads-up," said Colborne. "When I got drafted, I felt a little under the microscope and I didn't know what to expect."

"[It's a] nice progression there," said Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney. "We saw him at the end of the year of a full-blown college season. He maintained the majority of his strength and weight, but it is still going to be a challenge. This will be a significant challenge for him. I think he has a really nice foundation and a base going and he'll continue to get better and stronger as he matures. But now we're going to put an 80-game schedule on his dinner plate and see if he handles that, be it at the NHL level or the American League level. So that will be a good challenge and stuff that we'll have to continue to sort out, but he has put in a lot of work."

"I think we've seen a real good progression out of Joe Colborne," said Sweeney. "He came in as a gangly kid right out of the draft and we've seen now he's kind of grown into his body. He's got a long way to go to when he'll physically mature. You've seen some other guys in the league have that same trajectory. We've watched him obviously in his two years at school and realize he was playing a different position last year, but he keeps moving forward. He bought into the fact he has to continue to improve. He has a good outlook and a positive outlook in his daily approach to getting better. That's going to set him up for success."

2010-11 outlook
Outside of Tyler Seguin, Colborne may have the best chance of any rookie to make the Boston roster out of camp. He still faces some long odds, however, with Boston's veteran depth up front. He might also be better served with some additional seasoning in the AHL. It will be interesting to see where he plays in camp. The Bruins kept him at center for his brief stint in Providence at the end of last year and seem to like the idea of using his size in the middle. If they want to take it slow with him and give him more time to develop in Providence, he will likely remain there. But if they think he's ready to make the leap to the NHL in the near future, they could fast-track him by using him on the wing, where there are more immediate opportunities.

NESN.com will count down our preseason Top 10 Bruins Prospects with one profiled each day.

Thursday, Sept. 9: The No. 3 prospect, forward Jordan Caron.

Saturday, Sept. 11: The No. 1 Bruins prospect is unveiled.

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