Joe Colborne, in his second full season in the American Hockey League, has hit his stride. He's leading the league in scoring, and was the Reebok/AHL Player of the Month for October.
In his first 12 games this season, the 21-year-old has notched 10 goals and nine assists for 19 points. His success is marked by hard work both on and off the ice and a commitment to improving his game.
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Calgary native said he focused on speed this summer, as well as faceoffs and agility.
"I'd say the biggest things are my confidence is better and my strength has improved a lot," he said. "Another thing I'd say has gotten better is my power; I'm feeling more and more comfortable on the ice with my size."
A 2008 first-round draft pick by Boston, Colborne made his AHL debut with the Providence Bruins on Apr. 2, 2010 – a game where his two assists helped the earn the team a win over the Worcester Sharks.
Colborne spent the next season in Providence, picking up the rhythm of professional hockey and the challenges that come with playing on a larger stage.
"Getting used to playing a long pro season has definitely given me a new perspective on the everyday changes of being a professional hockey player," he said. "Competing against full grown men has helped me develop faster compared to playing against maybe smaller guys in college.
"It's pushed me every day in games and practices to push to my full potential."
There's no telling where the peak of that "full potential" lies. This time last season, Colborne had posted 1-4-5 totals. Now, after being traded to Toronto in a 2011 deal that sent Tomas Kaberle to Boston, Colborne has more than tripled his production and shows no signs of slowing down.
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"It actually isn't that big of an adjustment for me because the coaching staff and players have been so great," he said. "When I got here last February everyone has been great making this very easy."
Colborne has fallen right in place with his linemates, wingers Jerry D'Amigo and Joey Crabb. Before Crabb's recall to the Maple Leafs on Nov. 1, the trio was one of the most productive in the AHL.
"I feel that the team, and the organization as a whole, has a lot more depth than even last season," Colborne said. "I've been blessed to play with some great players already this season, but it seems whoever I've been linemates with, we've been able to find a way to get the job done."
Last season Colborne made his NHL debut with the Maple Leafs, where he notched an assist – his first NHL point. As he continues to improve his game, Colborne says the possibility of another NHL call-up is always in the back of his mind.
"It was a big learning experience for me to get my first NHL game under my belt," he said. "It was a pretty big confidence booster being able to play at that level, and then to get my first point, that was awesome.
"I'd say it really lit my fire and got me extra inspired to work hard during the offseason and focus on being an everyday player in the NHL one day."
But for now, Colborne has led his Toronto Marlies into first place in the North Division after the first month of the AHL season.
"I think it's going to be important to continue my success and even build off of it," he said. "The goal is to continue to improve in all areas of my game and get the team to the playoffs."