TLN Top Twenty Prospects: No. 2 – Joe Colborne

Name : Joe Colborne
Position: Centre   
Hometown: Calgary, Alberta
Size: 6’5", 215 lbs
2013 Team: Toronto Marlies (AHL), Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
Acquired: Traded with Boston’s 2011 1st round choice and 2011 2nd round choice for Tomas Kaberle.

Joe Colborne, it’s time to make the NHL, or at least give us an idea of what you are. I don’t want to see this list next year with your name near the bottom because we can barely call you a prospect any longer. Just do something. Give Dave Bolland a stone-cold stunner in training camp, make the Leafs buy out Tyler Bozak, play ping-pong with Phil Kessel and become his best friend. I don’t know, just do what you have to do.

At this point we still have to consider Colborne a prospect because he simply hasn’t done enough to make the Leafs full-time yet, but let’s keep in mind he’s only about eight months younger than James van Riemsdyk. The big center spent most of his time with the Marlies last season and slotted in to a couple of Leafs playoff games this past spring due to an injury to Bozak, and looked alright in doing so, but he isn’t a lock to make the team to start this season by any means.

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Colborne’s point totals in the AHL don’t worry me too much. He hasn’t been a point-per-game guy, but scored at a decent clip last season with 42 points in 65 games, while turning it on mid-way through. What’s worrying is that time seems to be running out on the 2008 first rounder.
Colborne is in a situation in Toronto where he’s buried by mediocre (albeit NHL-calibre) centers. There isn’t really a job for him to steal in the top three lines. If he plays games with the Leafs as a center this upcoming season, it will likely be on the fourth line with two soup cans. That won’t do much for his numbers, and he’ll get barely any ice time, so really what’s the point? However, is hanging out in the AHL for another season doing much for him either? I guess if I had to choose, I’d rather see him in the Leafs’ lineup and trying to work his way in to bigger minutes. 
It seems that the only way Colborne will get a regular shift with the Leafs is if they run in to an injury, or as a third line winger, otherwise he’s on the outside looking in. And even if he does get in there, it’s still a tough call as to whether he can produce much at the NHL level or, as mentioned, if he’ll even really get a chance to. 
For all these reasons you might be looking at this and saying "then why in the hell did you idiots rank him number two?"
When compiling this list, writers had to weigh a prospect’s chances of making an NHL lineup as part of their ranking, regardless of role. This is likely why you see Colborne so far up the list. He’s the prospect with the best chance to make the Leafs, even if his potential impact on the club seems totally unknown. I still think it’s possible that he can be an effective NHLer and start to compile some points given the right opportunity, and many folks still believe he has top six potential. Unfortunately it’s tough to see that opportunity coming about soon with Bozak slotted as the number one center, Nazem Kadri the Leafs’ most talented in the position, and Bolland brought in during the offseason. Not to mention the Leafs are looking good on the wing, so he’ll have to battle for a spot there too.
One thing that’s probably a good for Colborne is that the Leafs have Bolland on a contract that expires next summer. Colborne’s goal should be to play his guts out and put the team in a position where they feel they can rely on him and perhaps move on in that direction, making Bolland or another forward expendable. 
Colborne looks about ready to graduate from the AHL, which helped put him ahead of the other prospects on this list, but I don’t know where exactly he’s graduating to right now. He’s number two in these rankings because we think he’s closest to cracking the NHL club, but if he doesn’t soon, it’s tough not to look at younger prospects’ higher upside, despite risk, and start to rate them higher. I’m sure some are of the opinion that we’re already there.
This is a big year for Joe Colborne, one in which we should get answers to a lot of these questions.

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  • If he’s put in a specialist role, I don’t see how he can flourish. I like what little I saw of him last yr with the Leafs. His growing pains should be finished and if his wrist in 100 per cent, then he should stick out. A lot will depend on who he plays with. He’s a big man, I think I’ve seen him fight, but its not his game. If he plays with Bolland or Mcclement, he might put the odd goal in, he has all the tools to be a scorer in the NHL, just a matter of how high up the roster he plays. His size and added strength, and some much needed confidence from his playoffs play could add to him becoming good along the boards and the cycle and he should be hard to move out of the slot. If he can kill penalties, he should be able to stick around long enough to show his stuff. I fear we may give up on him too early, so I hope he does well. Thank you Boston.

  • I think Colbourne plays on a line with McLement and McLaren/Orr. I’m of the opinion that they won’t suit up both of the “soup cans” on a regular basis… and that Raymond will be signed instead of Franson.