'It's up in the air'

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

Joe Colborne heard all the horror stories.

How too many young men flew out to too many NHL entry drafts, got all gussied up in their best suit, with their mom, dad, sister and girlfriend in tow, only to endure the painful and humbling experience of falling four rounds lower than they thought they'd go.

Or being passed over altogether.

He heard Don Cherry plead, year after year, that unless you're a first-round lock, don't go. Don't risk becoming hockey's version of Brady Quinn.

So the Camrose Kodiaks centre had plenty to think about before making his mind up about that plane ticket to Ottawa. Ranked 28th in North America by Central Scouting, he's hardly a first-round lock. And the fact he spent last season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, and not the NCAA or CHL, might be red flag enough to scare away some potential employers.

"It wasn't really an automatic," said the six-foot-five, 190-pounder from Calgary. "We kind of waited and got some feedback. We sat down with my advisers, my parents and I, and asked if it would be worth my while to go down and he said, 'For sure. It will be a fun experience and you only get to do it once.' "

"And either way, if I do get drafted pretty high or not, we'll have a fun few days. No matter which way it turns out, it won't be affecting the way I see my future."

Could be a smart move. Last night the TSN rankings came out and hockey analyst Bob McKenzie, who boasts an 84% accuracy rate when it comes to picking who'll go in the top 30, had Colborne 19th overall (on a list that includes Europeans and North Americans).

Obviously there's room for a big swing on draft day: One reputable service has Colborne 28th in North America, another has him 19th in the world. Where does he expect to go?

"It's up in the air," said Colborne, who finished second in AJHL scoring with 90 points last season. "A lot of people are saying a lot of different things. You never really know what's going on. I've stayed pretty far away from it all. I'm just letting the chips fall where they may. I've done all I can do. I'm just going to sit back and enjoy it."

The Oilers, who select 22nd overall, have seen Colborne more than most teams. They interviewed him at the NHL combine and came away impressed.

"I think there's a lot of teams that would have him in the first round," said Edmonton's head scout Stu MacGregor. "He's got first-round talent. He's a player everybody is going to have to consider and take a really good look at."

The AJHL isn't the typical launching pad for most players. The best ones move on to the NCAA or CHL before their draft years and expose themselves to better competition and coaching. But he had Boris Rybalka behind the bench and a pretty good shot at advancing all the way to the national championship, so Colborne didn't figure he'd be spinning his wheels in Camrose.

Judging by the rankings, he was right.

"You have to attribute it to the coach we had, and the whole franchise," he said. "So many guys on our team had years where they improved a ton from the previous season. That kind of proves how well our coaches have taught us. It was hard losing that last game, but you can't get any farther than the national final, so overall it was pretty good."

Overall it was great. Even he's caught a little off guard by how well things went for him.

"After last year, I looked at what I wanted to do this year and I set some goals for myself," he said. "Maybe the fact that I was able to accomplish most of them was a little bit surprising. Obviously there were a few lofty ones in there, like playing in the World Jr. A challenge and winning gold there.

"These past two years in Camrose have been pretty much two of the best in my career. I just had so much fun up there and it kind of set me up great for now."


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