The Swedish forward was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens – along with a second-round pick – in exchange for Thomas Vanek at the March 5 trade deadline, but spent his first few months on Long Island rehabbing a shoulder injury.
Now, healthy and raring to go, the 20-year-old is looking to showcase himself alongside a talented group of prospects.
By all accounts Collberg is a highly-skilled forward. He’s a dynamic scorer with a great shot and soft hands that allow him to overcome a lean 5’10 frame.
“I’m not the biggest guy out there, so I need to be a quick player, a smart player out there,” said Collberg. “I think I have good hands and a great shot. That’s my kind of game.”
Eric Cairns, the Islanders Director of Player Development, lauds Collberg's skating ability and offensive instincts.
“He is an offensive hockey player with really good wheels,” Cairns said. “He pushes the pace hard up ice with and without the puck. He’s a tireless worker, he’s always moving, always trying to be available in the offensive end.”
Collberg may have been on the Islanders radar during the 2012 draft, but the Canadiens snatched him up with the 33rd pick, one ahead of the Islanders. His stellar junior career for the Swedish club Frölunda and sterling international resume – gold and two silvers at the World Juniors – made him an enticing prospect.
Collberg shot up Frölunda’s ranks, scoring 61 points in 56 games for the under-20 SuperElit squad, but wasn't as consistent with the men’s team in the SHL in 2012-13, scoring nine points in 35 games.
I can play a tougher game out there also and not be scared about my shoulder - Sebastian Collberg
“Sometimes in Sweden, the younger players on the men’s teams take a little while to get the coaches’ confidence, so the ice time isn't always a lot for him,” Cairns said. “He’s a power-play type player and he didn’t get that time. That’s just the way it happens over there and that’s fine. I think that given some more time, we would’ve seen some better stats out of him.”
The next year unfolded in a similar manner for Collberg, who excelled against players his own age, but struggled with consistency at the next level. A shoulder injury prematurely shut down his season and he was traded to the Islanders.
Collberg said it was a tough two years offensively (in the SHL), but said it was valuable experience to bring to the United States. He’s also happy to land on a team that thinks highly of him and wants to help him unearth the potential that made him such a high second-round pick.
Fellow Swedish Islanders Johan Sundstrom and John Persson have aided Collberg's transition to his new club. Collberg and Sundstrom played together in the world juniors and for Frölunda’s SuperElit team in 2010-11, while Collberg also played with Johan Persson, John’s brother.
“For [Sebastian], it’s just a matter of finding your game,”Sundstrom said. “[It’s a matter of] physically bringing it every night. It’s not going to be easy, but we’ve all been there, and we’re just going to support him and make sure he has all the possibilities to score goals here.”
|Persson and Collberg are on the same line at Islanders rookie camp. |
Persson spent large parts of the summer on Long Island and bonded with Collberg, who was rehabbing his shoulder.
“Playing in the SHL is different than playing in the AHL,” Persson said. “Guys are a little younger here, and being in an environment like this, he’ll take that next step… He did everything he had to do this summer and he looks ready.”
Being healthy is one of the keys for Collberg to impress at camp. Nursing an injury in a foreign country isn't a 20-year-old's idea of an ideal summer, but it shows that type of hard work and commitment that gets a player to the next level. Taking the time to properly heal also offers piece of mind before having to battle other hungry prospects at camp.
“I can play a tougher game out there also and not be scared about my shoulder,” he said.
Cairns said Collberg already looks bigger and fitter than he did when he completed his rehab, which is a good sign. The team has high hopes for Collberg, and he has them for himself too.
“I want to show them it was a good trade,” he said.
Six months later and healthy, it’s time for the new face to make a good impression.