Thursday, April 10, 2008

Denver Frozen Four Begins Today

(above) BC practices at the Pepsi Center yesterday

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

DU Recruit Is Excelling On Ice & In Classroom

(above) Joe Colborne (#12) has NHL scouts drooling

From: Edmonton Sunby Jonathan Huntington

Joe Colborne is every hockey parent's dream.

Touted as a first-round pick in this year's NHL draft, the Camrose Kodiaks forward is loaded with talent and potential. In fact, when the Kodiaks battle the host Fort McMurray Oil Barons tonight in the third game of the AJHL league final, Colborne could easily take over the tilt and score the winner.

But as good as the 18-year-old centre can be on the ice, he's arguably a better student.

"Anything less than 95 (per cent) is a disappointment for him," said Camrose assistant coach Miles Walsh, who is also the club's educational liaison.

"Nobody (in Kodiaks' history) will have ever touched those (high school) marks."

And as the kicker to this story, Colborne comes from a remarkable family - in athletics and business.

But you would never know it.

Humble. Polite. Respectful. Talented. Brilliant.

All of those words describe this rare teenager.

Rated 30th among North American skaters by the NHL Central Scouting Rankings in January, Colborne's stock has climbed ever since.

After finishing with 90 points in 55 games in the AJHL regular season - good for second in league scoring - the six-foot-four and 195-pound forward has NHL scouts drooling.

"He's big, skilled and smart - something NHL teams need and want," said one NHL scout before Game 2 in the AJHL playoff final on Sunday night in Camrose.

"He's probably as close to a Joe Thornton clone (as you can be) at this level. His upside is phenomenal.

"He wins a lot of board battles and can turn on a dime and make a great pass."

Tied for second in league playoff scoring with 15 points, Colborne plays in every situation - centres the top line, kills penalties and is on the power play.

There were an estimated 20 NHL scouts to watch Game 1 of the AJHL final last weekend and there are scouts that have been religiously following this phenom for weeks.

Granted, there are some naysayers. Some scouts question his skating ability.

"His downside is the league he plays in - that's the perception of some scouts," said a scout, referring to the fact the Calgary native dominates Junior A, but is not in the WHL.

But the latest projections from multiple sources on where Colborne could be taken in this NHL draft range from 8th-20th overall to anywhere from 11th spot downward.

It's not uncommon for this quiet blond-haired youngster to get home from a road game at 1:30 a.m. and be in school the next morning by 9 a.m.

"He does phenomenally well in all areas (of school)," said Camrose trainer Brent Sawchuk, who's also an instructor at Colborne's unique school.

"He is a model student. He sets a fine example of what it takes to be successful in this busy world. He is a terrific writer, but the sciences and maths are stronger."

Colborne is a student at Battle River Online high school - an institution housed within Camrose Composite High School.

He takes Math 31 - essentially a university-level calculus class - by video conferencing.

The Grade 12 chemistry class he's mastering is taken through correspondence using print material.

A 90-to-95% student, Colborne had college hockey recruiters salivating.

"He could have chosen any school in the United States (for college)," added Walsh.

Harvard and Yale made offers to the power forward.

But the University of Denver won the sweepstakes because of a strong hockey team and top-10 business program.

Colborne will be off to college next fall with dreams of the NHL - first as a player and ultimately as a general manager.

"(He's) the kind of kid that if you had a daughter, you'd want her to bring him home - plain and simple," stated Walsh of Colborne.

Is there a better endorsement from your billet and the vice principal of the Camrose junior high school?


"My wife is going to be teary-eyed when the time comes (for him to leave), there is no doubt about it," Walsh continued.

As a human being, Colborne actually seems to be too good to be true. There is no ego. There is no arrogance.

"Right from when I was little my parents always taught me to try to be the best at everything you do," said Colborne. "You have to go to school - you might as well do your best.

"I try to get 100 (per cent) every time."

As parents, Janice and Paul have raised four athletic children.

Lauren played basketball for the U of A.

Melissa is a star bball player at Yale.

And Claire might be the most gifted of the sisters, just winning the 3A provincial high school basketball title in Calgary.

But Joe gets the headlines.

"We're very proud of Joe," said Paul, a lawyer and owner of his own oil/gas company.

"But I'm most proud of the team (in Camrose) and how Boris (Rybalka, the head coach) has moulded them.

"And Boris has made Joe a much more complete player."

According to Colborne, there are lots of areas to improve on. First and foremost, he needs to put weight on his lanky frame.

"It's not like I'm a hall-of-famer - pretty much every aspect of my game could be improved quite a bit," he remarked.

"My parents always taught that you have to improve all the time and when you start thinking you are pretty good you'll fall."

Nobody is betting that Colborne will fall on his face.

"He's going to be in the NHL," said a scout.

The only question is which team is going to be so fortunate to draft him.