WILMINGTON — With age and experience, hockey players often say that the offseasons shorten up. The time devoted to family and training flies by as training camp fast approaches. Tell that to 20-year-old prospect Joe Colborne.
“You have no idea. It’s finally here,” Colborne said after taking the ice with the veterans for the third day of captain’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. “Everyone kept telling me how short the summer was. I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ I’ve been waiting — it feels like this last month has taken a year.”
This will be Colborne’s first camp with the big boys. After starting the last two seasons playing for the University of Denver and finishing the 2009-10 campaign with six games in Providence, the center is preparing for his first foray in making an NHL  squad.
Going the college-to-AHL-to-NHL-hopeful route has been beneficial for Colborne. The 16th overall pick in the 2008 draft, Colborne has the talent and size that make many believe he has a productive professional career ahead of him. It’s at each stop, however, that Colborne has been able to develop the most important tool — vision and timely decision-making.
“The biggest difference that I’ve noticed is that everyone knows how to play the game at a higher level and you think the game at a higher level,” Colborne said. “When you get to college and you get to the pros, everyone’s a good player and everyone has good skills, but it’s the guys who can think the game and think the game about a step faster than everyone else. You have to be thinking where the puck’s going to be a lot sooner than, say in college, where you’d have an extra second with the puck or so. I’ve noticed that the D-men close the gap better, forwards are on the forecheck quicker, and it’s just making the decisions a little bit quicker.”
In 39 games for the Pioneers in his sophomore season, Colborne had 41 points in 39 games. Over his short stint with the Baby B’s to end the season, he had two assists. Points aside, nothing was more valuable than getting to once again learn to adjust, just as he had when he first arrived in Denver in 2008.
“Playing in the AHL at the end of the year was a big jump,” Colborne said. “I felt like as the games went on, I felt better and better. This summer’s been huge for me, just working on my quickness. I’m looking forward to camp to see how I compare up against some of the best players in the world.”
The odds are that Colborne’s season will begin in Providence, but after an offseason in which he said he took “two or three days off,” his future is bright. He’ll be on display at the Garden for rookie games on September 15 and 16. He jokingly thanked Tyler Seguin  for the opportunity to play at the Garden.
“I’m sure if he wasn’t here, we’d probably be playing in some rink in the middle of nowhere,” he said with a laugh.