Heres’s another one of Don’s great prospect interviews, this one with defenseman Colby Robak. Don also has an interview with Jonathan Quick and we’re also in the process of setting something up with Marc Crawford. For now, here’s Colby…
The knock on Colby Robak is that he is a big defenseman who doesn’t play physical enough.
The 6-3, 202-lb Gilbert Plains, Manitoba product doesn’t necessarily disagree with those assessments, but he has been working hard to make them go away, and his dedication to change – along with his smooth skating style – has most scouts rating Robak highly in this June’s NHL entry draft.
The 17-year-old just completed his second campaign with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, a season that saw him net six goals and 24 assists, all the while working on taking the body and finishing-off checks with the encouragement of coaches and scouts alike.
Robak was recently named to the Canadian National Team that will complete later this month in the Under-18 World Hockey Tournament in Russia. He took a few minutes to chat about the Wheat Kings’ successful 42-win season, its disappointing first round playoff loss and confesses to being another young defenseman who idolized Rob Blake.
Q&A with Colby Robak
Question: It has to just be a tremendous honor to be named to the U-18 team.
Robak: It sure is, and it’s every kid’s dream to put on the Canada jersey and be able to do it. It is just a dream come true for myself and I really don’t know how to explain it, what’s it’s going to be like to get on that plane, it’s probably going to be the best thing I’ve ever done.
Question: Have you competed internationally at any other level?
Robak: I was invited to the Under-17 camp and I came up a little short. I injured my hip flexor on the first day so it kind of limited my mobility, so I got passed up. This will be my first experience in international play.
Question: Were you able to stay pretty healthy all year with the Wheat Kings?
Robak: Absolutely, I played in 71 of the 72 games and played in the prospects game.
Question: The Wheat Kings nearly came all the way back from being down three games to none. How difficult was that ladder to climb?
Robak: We got down early and just dug ourselves a hole and we are a very young team without a lot of experience playoff wise. It was a bit overwhelming, but we nearly got ourselves out. We learned as a group about all the emotion changes throughout the game and that kind of stuff and how one shift here can determine the next shift there.
Question: Talk a little about the very successful regular season for the team.
Robak: We had a great bunch of rookies and young guys coming in, guys like Brayden Schenn and Scott Glennie who are all going to be great players professionally some day. They helped build our team quite a bit. Everyone came out hard to play and compete every night. Everyone has something to bring to the table, and even though we were very young we played hard every night.
Question: What type of a defenseman are you?
Robak: I consider myself to be a bit of an offensive-defenseman. My coach gave me the opportunity to quarterback the power play a number of times this year and I kind of took that and used it to my advantage and help out that way. I guess I’m not as physical as I want to be and I’ve been working on that all this season and I hope to take that over to Russia.
Question: Let’s talk a little bit more about the physical part of the game. Scouting reports seem to agree with what you said; that you need to be more physical.
Robak: I think the scouting report is pretty accurate. Growing up in a small town and being bigger than most guys if you ended up using the body you were considered a bully, and nobody really likes being called that when they’re younger. I guess it just kind of carried on to my junior career. I’ve had a talk with some scouts and my coach and we just really worked on me finishing my checks throughout the year.
Question: I’ve got to think that at some point during the year you finished out some checks.
Robak: Oh yeah, absolutely (laughs).
Question: Are there any NHL defenseman that you’ve modeled your game after?
Robak: Growing up I really enjoyed watching guys like Rob Blake, Ray Bourque, Chris Pronger. One guy who I really would like my game to be like is Nicklas Lidstrom. He is just solid defensively and he picks up the points on the power play and stuff like that, so that is one guy I’d model my game after.
Question: What areas of your game do you feel stand out and make scouts take notice?
Robak: I feel my skating and my first break-out pass have always been complimented on quite a bit, so I’ve always tried to work on those things.
Question: It seems like you’ve been playing year-round. Once the tournament is over do you get some time to wind-down or is it immediately into training mode for you?
Robak: When we get back I’ll probably go home for a couple of days, take a week or week and a half and then I’ll get with the trainer and train all summer.
Question: Have you given much thought to the upcoming NHL draft?
Robak: No, not yet. Not really during the season, it just kind of sat in the back of my mind because I didn’t want it to affect my game. Definitely now I’ve been thinking about it and I can’t wait until June to see what happens.
Question: You mentioned Rob Blake, so have you given any thought to playing in Los Angeles?
Robak: Absolutely, that would just be unreal to be able to go and maybe put on an LA Kings uniform and step on the ice.
Question: As exciting as it would be for you to come to Los Angeles, how do you think your family would feel about it.
Robak: They would be happy and support me no matter where I go. Still, it would be strange because we come from a town of only 700 people and to go to a city like Los Angeles – I have no idea how many people are out there (laughs) – I don’t even know how to describe it.