Hello everyone. He we are, back again with this weeks The Draft Document. A very close vote was cast, it came down to a tie between Coburn and Zach Parise, but with me casting the deciding vote, we are headed to the WHL this week to take an in-depth look at Braydon Coburn, at present arguably the top defenseman eligible for the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. So let’s take a closer look at this hulking-stud of a blueliner.
Braydon Coburn, D, 6’5, 210lbs. Portland Winter Hawks, WHL
Braydon Coburn is an imposing figure. Standing 6’5 already, Coburn could still grow a little more by draft time. Add in the he is 210 lbs and that he needs to fill out some more yet, and you should see this blueliner grow to Chris Pronger-like proportions (66, 220lbs) at the very least. Coburn has drawn comparisons to other tall NHL defensemen like Pronger and Hal Gill. Like both of these guys, Coburn is very strong in his own end and uses his great size and reach to its fullest extent. Going wide around Coburn is nearly impossible. Also, similar to Gill and Pronger, Coburn is adverse to the physical stuff as he is presently averaging just under three penalty minutes a game, a pace that would put him just over 200 minutes at the end of the season. Also, Coburn has some upside offensively. Not as much as Pronger, but he could turn into a decent powerplay quarterback.
The strengths of Braydon’s game are simple. Size, strength and mobility. Coburn uses his size well. With the wingspan of a small plane, Coburn can easily force players trying to cut to the net actually get forced around the net. And if you try cutting in to close, Coburn will simply use his body to force you away from the net and off of the puck. Easily one of the strongest players in the WHL, Coburn is a force in the corners and in traffic. As Jake Dole, editor at Hockeysfuture said; “…he’s a big, physically intimidating blueliner… He uses his size well in the corners and in traffic – an excellent bodychecker”.
Few players dare park in his crease as Coburn can easily move them out and he usually isn’t to polite doing it. Mobility is usually something that is a weakness is larger defensemen, but Coburn is well off there as well. Already having decent foot speed for a big man, Coburn has improved his mobility and agility to make him nearly impossible to beat one on one. “His positioning is exceptional and he uses his speed and agility well to keep up with the sneakiest of opponents” said Dole. In these regards, Coburn is probably the top defenseman available in the draft. It is also a big reason that Coburn was selected to go to the World Junior Hockey Championship Team Canada training camp this year. One of only four first time draft eligible players to make the selection camp, Coburn is also the only first time eligible defenseman on the roster. Obviously this is a big camp for the blueliner, as it is his chance to improve his draft stock while virtually all other draft-eligibles on this side of the pond are watching on TV. Given that he is a very determined individual who never takes a game off and that he is one of only three defensemen over 6’2 at the camp, Team Canada might have a hard time cutting him.
While defensively, Coburn is one of the most reliable players in the draft; his offensive play could use some improvement. While Coburn does possess a hard slapshot which he can put on target regularly, which should get him plenty of powerplay time, he is not likely to pile up points ala a Sergei Zubov. Still, he is good at the outlet pass and starting the rush. And given that he very coachable and he does appear to have some untapped puck-moving skills, Coburn could still turn his offensive game up a notch or two. Whether he will remains to be seen, and will likely be determined in what kind of teams and systems he plays for and how well Coburn does at transitioning from the defensive to the offensive roles. Some players fail to be able to read when to jump into the attack and when not to and that is something that Coburn does have a problem with, thus his reluctance thus far to do much in initiating the offensive game for his team. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact players like Ian White, Steve Eminger and Nathan Paetsch, all of whom are puck carrying defensemen at Team Canada’s selection camp, will have on Coburn’s view of the game and his role in it.
The off ice aspect of a player is just as important these days to scouts and GM’s as is the way a player plays. Thus the pre-draft interviews, the fitness testing, the constant phone calls to the players junior team coach, GM, and even the parents and friends of the player. Luckily, Coburn has this side polished up as well. A developing leader, Coburn shows up for practice everyday as though it were a game. He takes no days off and works hard on developing his skill set to match his natural abilities. “Has quite a mean streak, good work ethic and a positive attitude towards the game” said Dole, all of which GM’s love to see in a player of Coburn’s size. Teammates and coaches rave about this young man and, given his determination to better himself, that praise will continue to come in. He is a coach’s dream, does what he is told and expects others to do the same.
While some, including Dole view Coburn as having a shot at one of the top three picks in this year’s draft, I think Coburn is likely to fall short in that bid. Still he should challenge for the one of the top five spots and should be the first defenseman taken. While comparisons to Pronger are out of line, Coburn could possibly develop into a defenseman like an Aren Miller, Dmitri Yushkevich, Hall Gill or even a young Ken Daneyko. A physical presence that loves to leave his mark. This is Dole’s view of the type of player Coburn will become; “Will never be a major point producer, as he prefers to stay back and make the safe play. Can control the tempo of a game by making solid hits and good passes, even without getting on the scoreboard.” Sure sounds like a Daneyko or Gill. Only that Coburn should have more upside in the offensive zone. Still, time will tell what this young man will do. But as long as he keeps up the work ethic, he should be fine.