Evaluating deadline trade prospects 

February, 28, 2011

Joe ColborneG Fiume/Getty ImagesJoe Colborne could find more opportunity to shine with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Trading for another team's draft prospects is more of a gamble than it appears.

The acquiring team is relying upon first and maybe second impressions (pre-draft scouting and subsequent views in pro scouting). The team unloading a prospect it has drafted knows the player better. For the acquiring team, it's like buying a used car by watching it go around the block or listening to it idle. A team moving a prospect is like someone selling a car after having driven it for a year or two, and with the knowledge of how much time it has spent in the shop. Often, the traded prospect is redundant to his original team -- in the same way that there's no sense in holding on to a second car.

As a result, most prospects moved on or before the trade deadline have more opportunity with their new squads but arrive with question marks attached. Here is a breakdown of five prospects who are joining new teams at this year's trade deadline:

C Joe Colborne

Traded from the Boston Bruins to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Tomas Kaberle deal

A 6-foot-5 center who drew a lot of interest in his draft year (2007-08) based on his play with the Camrose Kodiaks in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He tore up the AJHL and World Junior A Challenge, and his most impressive play of the season came over the stretch when a large crowd of scouts was rubber-necking.

Boston selected him No. 16 in the 2008 draft. Scouts at the time had their reservations about his willingness to play in heavy traffic. "He plays just hard enough to get a good view of the game," one scout said, which is a nice way of saying that Colborne has been too willing to play out on the perimeter.

In two seasons at Denver University, Colborne put up respectable numbers, particularly in a 22-goal sophomore season. But even at DU, the reservations of skeptics seemed founded. He moved out to the perimeter as if the 3-point line were in play. Colborne's progress in the American Hockey League was only so-so: 12 goals and 14 assists in 55 games with Boston's AHL affiliate in Providence.

Clearly, Colborne does not look like a No. 1 center, but does he have the upside to be a No. 2? It wasn't going to happen for him in Boston, but in Toronto it might. Working against him, though, is the fact that he can't learn at the NHL level as a third- or fourth-liner -- he has the necessary size but none of the fire. Therefore, Colborne basically has to start as a second-liner. That's a tall order even for a 21-year-old who's 6-foot-5.

D Jake Gardiner

Traded from the Anaheim Ducks to Toronto in the Francois Beauchemin deal

Anaheim drafted Gardiner 17th overall in 2008 out of Minnetonka (Minnesota high school), largely based on his excellent skating and solid skill set. It was tough to get a clear read on his total game given the level of competition, but he was athletic enough to give the Ducks reason to believe that he'd have top-four potential.

A lot of NHL teams want their front-line prospects to sign after their freshman or sophomore seasons in the NCAA, but Gardiner is wrapping up his junior year at Wisconsin. The Leafs might be of the belief that Gardiner can play a role back on the power-play point: rushing the puck, moving it around. The Ducks clearly didn't imagine that the collegian would ever bump a 19-year-old Cam Fowler, who's already filling that role in Anaheim.

D Colten Teubert

Traded from the Los Angeles Kings to the Edmonton Oilers in the Dustin Penner deal