Since being the centrepiece of the trade with the Boston Bruins that sent long-time defenceman Tomas Kaberle to win his ring (and then fizzle out completely as an NHL player), Colborne has tantalized with his unique and coveted mix of size and skill, leading many to hope he would follow in the footsteps of Mats Sundin (but many willing to settle for a less frequently injured Nik Antropov).
So far, it hasn't quite happened.
Colborne's established himself as an effective AHL top six forward, showing flashes of brilliance in a half-season at a point per game (partnered with Joey Crabb, who was intent on scoring his way out of the AHL), but also frustrating with a seocnd half marred by inconsistency and an inability to maintain his pace (we found out later a major factor was a significantly damaging wrist injury, which, way to go Leafs medical staff).
In his stints in the NHL, Colborne's primarily been a bit player, mostly relegated to third-line duties or lower. It's been frustrating to watch Colborne look as if he's figured things out, only to immediately hit a stretch of play without opportunities, followed by a demotion to the AHL and start from scratch.
Even though the Leafs are painfully thin among forward prospects, there eventually reaches a point where you decide you have to walk away from certain players because you simply don't have a role for them. The Leafs may be reaching that point with Colborne.
Begrudgingly, we move Colborne back up 5 places in our countdown, comfortably landing 6th.
Colborne had trouble finding a place in Carlyle's system that seemed to stress that the 4th line shall consist of specialists, but it needs to be said that even in a very limited setting in the playoffs, he didn't look out of place.
Colborne certainly has NHL talent, and while his days as a top six prospect may be reaching their end, if given the opportunity he should be able to establish some sort of role. What that will be, and whether it happens in Toronto, remains to be seen.
The biggest thing working in Colborne's favour this time around was a broad range of opinions among the prospects around him. Where Colborne's rankings all seemed to tick up slightly from the previous round (9s turned into 6s or 7s, 12s and 14s turned into 8s and 9s), and Colborne found himself at the top of this pack of players in the 6-15 range. Still, confusion about Colborne's future projections seemed to be a common theme.
Had a nice end to the season. No idea what to make of Colborne. From a 2 ppg month to a year battling wrist injuries. I have no idea where he's going.
Based on the current lineup projection, Colborne either starts the year back in the AHL again, or playing on the 4th line with potentially Orr and/or McLaren. I'm not sure which is worse for his development.Colborne's 214 points leaves him on an island in 6th on our list, 19 points ahead of the Percy/Finn tie for 7th, 23 points behind our 5th place selection. After a unanimous top 5, there was dissent among who deserved the 6 spot, and many voters seemed to default Colborne to the 6th ranking, possibly by virtue of his proximity to the NHL.
Setting aside the Top 25 for a second, this is a season that Joe Colborne will have to answer questions about his ability to be an NHL forward. He's now 23 years old, after 4 seasons in the AHL (with varying levels of success), the last 2 spent shuttling between the AHL and NHL. He's only been re-signed to a one-year contract, and with Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri and Dave Bolland all figuring to be ahead of him on the depth chart, finding ice time to prove he can contribute as a top 9 forward could be a challenge.