When doing a list like this in the middle of the season, you have an incomplete set of data to add to each player's resume. Depending on the random variation of luck during the season, that can have an impact on what we see in certain players over a short period of games.This can either have an inflating or deflating effect on a player's ranking, depending on the factors at play in the current year.
Which brings us to Joe Colborne.
During last season, Colborne, a former 1st round pick of the Boston Bruins acquired by Toronto in the Tomas Kaberle trade, flew out of the gates in the first half. Playing alongside Joey Crabb, a journeyman veteran desperately trying to get back to the NHL, the two of them were the focal point of the Marlies offence. At the turn of the year, Colborne had accumualted 23 points in 22 games in the AHL.
After that, things started to crumble offensively for the Calgary native. Colborne finished with just 39 points in 65 games, an improvement over his first pro season but a severe disappointment given the way he started the season.
Colborne takes a plunge in this edition of the Top 25 Under 25, falling from #5 all the way to #11.
Since the end of the season, we've learned some of the issues that plagued Colborne over the second half of the season, items that might help explain the peculiar drop in his production. We learned that Colborne struggled with a significant wrist injury for much of the second half of the season and playoffs. We also learned that Colborne, already a big young kid at 6'5", grew at least another inch.
Anyone who has gone through a significant growth spurt in a short period of time knows that it's almost as if you have to completely re-learn how to use their body. For Colborne, who in his two seasons as a professional has been trying to fill out his lanky frame in order to take advantage of his size and skill, this is like running on a treadmill that is speeding up without a moment's notice.
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After being ranked at 5 in the winter, Colborne takes a fall on most everyone's list. He still lands on the top 10 on the majority of people's lists, but has fallen down to the bottom of the top 10, and has tumbled well down on several people's lists, including birky who has him ranked at #14.
Let's look at Colborne's monthly splits since becoming a full-time AHLer in 2010-2011:
10/11 11/12 GP G A P GP G A P Oct 9 1 4 5 9 8 8 16 Nov 11 5 3 8 4 2 1 3 Dec 12 2 4 6 9 1 3 4 Jan 15 3 3 6 12 3 3 6 Feb 13 4 1 5 12 2 4 6 March 11 4 5 9 13 0 2 2 April 4 1 2 3 6 0 2 2
People will point to this past October as an example of Joe Colborne's talent. And maybe he turns out to be that kind of offensive player again. But there's pretty strong evidence at this point that October was simply an outlier. Did the wrist injury play a part? I'm just a little skeptical. So far, he hasn't shown that he has the chops to make it as an NHLer. Hopefully that will change, but I'm low on him at the moment.
Colborne will take advantage of the fact that at the moment the Leafs are still thin up front in terms of centre prospects. Nazem Kadri may or may not be viewed as a winger going forward, and Greg McKegg makes the jump to the pros but it isn't known where he will fit. For now, Colborne will get another opportunity to play in a top-six role with the Toronto Marlies, and would likely be in line for a call-up at some point thanks to his improved two-way play.
Colborne actually just missed out on the top 10 on our list by virtue of a tie with the individual who received the 10th place vote. Our tiebreaking procedure, which puts the player with the highest individual vote first, drop Colborne to #11 thanks to an 8th place vote for our #10 ranked player.
Colborne certainly possesses skill to be a capable two-way NHLer but is 22 years old and has been in the AHL for two seasons. He started to show significant progression last season and Leaf fans will be hoping he can regain the form from the first half of the season.