|Joe Colborne, a 6-foot-5-inch, 190-pound center, was taken 16th by the Bruins. He'll play at the University of Denver in the fall. (Fred chartrand/Associated Press)|
OTTAWA - Last month, Joe Colborne endured one of the toughest on-ice moments of his career.
The 6-foot-5-inch, 190-pound center, the star of his Camrose Kodiaks team, had the puck on his stick in the last seconds of the Royal Bank Cup championship game against the Humboldt Broncos. From the slot, Colborne fired a top-shelf shot that should have tied the score at 1-1.
Instead, Humboldt goalie Taylor Nelson made a last-second glove save that saddled Colborne and his Alberta Junior Hockey League club with a 1-0 loss in the title game.
"He got robbed on the last shot of the game," said Bruins director of amateur scouting Scott Bradley. "The goalie made an unbelievable save."
But last night at Scotiabank Place, Colborne heard general manager Peter Chiarelli call his name, and he was soon pulling on a crisp, white Bruins jersey for the first of what he hopes will be many times in his career.
"He just got better and better," Bradley said of Colborne. "I don't think he threw our staff too many bad games. Not any. Every time I saw him, he was good. Especially down the stretch."
In 55 games for Camrose in 2007-08, Colborne scored 33 goals and had 57 assists, and had 44 penalty minutes. During the AJHL playoffs, Colborne led all players with 16 points (eight goals, eight assists). He was named Canadian Junior Hockey League Player of the Year in 2007-08. Colborne is the third straight center the Bruins have selected in the first round, following Zach Hamill and Phil Kessel.
"Just his size and overall talent level," Bradley said when asked what attributes the Bruins liked in Colborne, a Calgary native. "He's a great playmaking center who has the ability to score."
Chiarelli had discussions with Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi and Atlanta GM Don Waddell about moving up to the top three. But with prices high (other GMs were asking for a roster player), the Bruins remained at No. 16, although they got a last-minute scare from their division rivals. The Senators, slotted at No. 18, traded spots with Nashville to take the No. 15 selection.
"I was a little nervous," Chiarelli said. "I expected them to do something because it's their town and they want to make a bit of a splash. We had a sense that they were going to get a goaltender. They didn't."
Ottawa selected defenseman Erik Karlsson, prompting the Boston bosses to pop up from the draft table to announce Colborne's name.
"A Bruin is someone who wants to work hard and put the team first," Colborne said. "He's someone that wants to win a Stanley Cup, and I definitely want to do that."
The 18-year-old Colborne has undergone a late growth spurt. Just three years ago, Colborne was 5-10 and weighed approximately 40 pounds less. As a result, Colborne has played more of a finesse game in the AJHL and was considered soft by scouts, which might be why he was tabbed as the No. 28 North American skater by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau.
"That doesn't concern me," Chiarelli said of the chatter about Colborne's lack of physical play. "This kid's a competitor. He's a smart player. Sometimes with the bigger kids and your legs aren't going a million miles an hour, you think he's not competing. But then you see they can't take the puck off you and you're getting chances. That's the type of player Joe is. He'll wind it up, he'll get going, then you'll have to get out of the way because you can't get the puck off him. Then he's got the big shot."
Both Colborne and the Bruins acknowledged he needs to fill out his frame, which is one reason the center chose the college hockey route instead of major junior hockey. This fall, Colborne will attend the University of Denver, choosing the Pioneers and coach George Gwozdecky after considering Boston College, Boston University, and Ohio State.
College hockey features fewer than half the games per season of major junior clubs. So while Colborne will be playing fewer games, he'll be spending more time in the weight room. Chiarelli projected that Colborne could weigh in at 225 pounds if he fills out, which would put him in the category of ex-Bruin Joe Thornton and Tampa Bay franchise center Vincent Lecavalier, two players with styles he prefers to play - skilled centers who can use their bodies to create space and opportunities.
"That's one of the reasons I chose college hockey," Colborne said. "I'll be playing less games and working out a lot. Hopefully, I'll be getting stronger."
Colborne said he'd need at least one year at Denver before considering himself ready for the pro game.
"With a kid of his character and work ethic, he's going to get bigger," Chiarelli said. "It's a little harder to improve your physical conditioning and strength in major junior because of the number of games you play. He's naturally going to get stronger. And we project that."
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.