EDMONTON, AB -- Joe knows.
A highly touted first round pick that will be a patient project to develop? Check.
A contract, complete with amateur try-out, to turn pro out of college? Uh-huh.
And heavy expectations with lofty comparisons to live up to? Yes.
Been there. Done that.
So when Joe Colborne learned the much-debated Mark Jankowski had inked an entry-level contract with the Calgary Flames, some familiar emotions might’ve flooded back to a time when the then-Boston Bruins prospects left the University Denver after his sophomore season to chase his NHL dream.
“It’s a continual thing,” said Colborne, whose six-game amateur try-out with the Providence Bruins in 2010 yielded two assists and a minus-8 rating.
“You realize when you look across that you see a guy who’s 35-years-old and has a family and all that. You look at your teammates and a bunch of them have families and kids and stuff. They get off the ice and they have to take their kids to school or to the dentist. It’s not like school where you leave the rink and everyone’s going together to go eat. Everyone has their own life and you have to learn to deal with the stuff away from the rink.”
Jankowski inked his two-year, entry-level pact on Wednesday. He added an amateur try-out and earned an assist in his first pro game with Stockton of the American Hockey League on Friday.
The helper came one week to the day that his amateur career with the Providence College Friars came to an end in an overtime loss in the NCAA’s Northeast Regional.
“It’s going to be a great situation because you have a chance to soak in,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “He’ll be at rookie camp; he’ll be at training camp. He’s definitely gong to be a better player. Understanding what’s pro hockey I think is a big step, whether you are out of junior hockey or college hockey, you need to taste it. You think you know but until you are there you don’t know.
“I was there for five years and we brought in college kids, junior kids and next training camp you could notice the difference because they know that they have to raise the bar and raise it in a big fashion. I think that for Mark it is going to be the same thing. He is going to complete against older guys, more mature, knowing the game a little better. This game has tons of secrets and until you’ve soaked in it you can just imagine, you don’t know and I think that Janko is going to be good for us.”
Off the ice, the adjustment is hard.
On the ice, it doesn’t get any easier.
Colborne can attest to both.
“It’s a different style of game,” Colborne said. “It’s more of the preparation you have to do and the stuff away from the rink that becomes more important. You’re body starts breaking down quicker; it’s a more physical game than college. When I think back, I remember how much more structured the game felt. College was run and gun, where guys turn the puck over left and right.
“Especially in the minors, it wasn’t less of a skill game, but it was more of a grind it out game. That changes your mindset a bit. Then you get to where you’re playing three or four games in three or four days and all of a sudden, you don’t have the same jump that you used to. It’s the stuff you do off the ice to make sure you’re ready to play for that third or fourth game that you never had to do in college.”
The biggest eye-opener, Colborne reiterated, came with nutrition and body care.
But the biggest adjustment might’ve been mental for Colborne.
Which is why he plans on reaching out to Jankowski, who under a previous regime was touted as the next Joe Nieuwendyk four years ago.
Keep the confidence.
Because Joe knows.
“Just explain to him, don’t lose faith in yourself,” Colborne said. “Hockey, as a first round pick, they expect you to be a first-line player as an 18-year-old and that’s just not the case. I still remember (former Bruins GM) Peter Chiarelli telling me that they drafted me now, but they’re hoping to see me as a player when I’m 25 or 26 and onward from there. They drafted me as a guy that would grow into what they hoped I would be.
“It’s easy for people to doubt you and stuff like that, and I’m sure Mark’s gone through that because he’s taken a different path. That does not mean he can’t be a great player a few years down the road. When he starts to feel comfortable in his body and confident, that’s when he’ll really step up.”