Toronto– On Wednesday, Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Joe Colborne was named American Hockey League Player of the Month for October.
In nine games, centering the top line of the Toronto Marlies, he scored eight goals to go along with 16 points and a plus-8 rating. He had four multi-point games, an eight-game point streak to start the season and, at month’s end, was tied for third in AHL scoring.
“Joe’s got the ability to set somebody up or score himself.” Said head coach Dallas Eakins.
Over the off season, back home in Calgary, the 6’5” Colborne focused much of his time on improving his play in the offensive zone.
“I put a lot of hard work in the off season into my shot,” said the 21 year old. “I wanted to become more of a dual threat player. It’s paying off but I still have some work to do.”
Both of his comments are true. He has improved his shot and still has some work to do.
Admitting he has tried to mould his game to the likes of Ryan Getzlaf or Eric Staal, his talents to produce are there. He can control the puck with his long reach and isn’t afraid to let off a quick snap shot when it looks good.
It’s when he’s in his own end that needs to improve before he can move to the next level.
On October 22nd, Colborne was named first star of the game, scoring three points and the overtime winning goal in a 5-4 victory over the Rochester Americans.
Unfortunately, he also erred in his own zone twice, both times leading to Rochester goals.
“I’ve been trying to pride myself on being a strong defensive player,” he said after the game. “(It’s) something I’ve really tried to incorporate and the coaches have been harping to me. When you give up a stupid goal like the fourth one, and the second one too, that was my fault. I wasn’t happy with my play in my own defensive zone today.”
Happy to pick up the two points off of Colborne’s winner, Eakins still made it known to the AHL sophomore that he needs to improve in his own zone.
“I don’t like mistakes and the first one he made cost us a goal.” Said Eakins. “In between periods I brought him right into the office and showed it to him. Last year I would have patted him on the back, but I let him know I wasn’t happy and he knew it. Sometimes ya gotta kick them in the pants and I thought he’s responded well since.”
Since being acquired from the Boston Bruins last February, the 2008 first round draft choice has 32 points in 29 with the Marlies. No other player on the roster comes close to that output over that length of games.
His offense is his strength and the reason he was brought in. It’s not if you will see him play for the Leafs, but when.
Hopefully for his sake, when the time comes he is confident in both ends of the rink. The last thing Toronto needs to do is rush another prospect who will take criticism for how he plays behind his own blue line.
But maybe, if he makes the step and scores at the same rate as he has in a Marlies uniform, no one will have to talk about his defence.
Either way, Colborne is a positive, bright spot on the Leafs depth chart who is willing to improve any part of his game.
Playing in the NHL is still his goal of course, but for now, playing for the Marlies is a positive in Colborne’s view.
“I certainly hope to play for the Leafs but right now I’m having fun, learning a lot and playing a lot. So I’m going to keep on working at getting better and hopefully get a chance.”