The Florida Panthers' prospect Colby Robak has developed nicely over the last several years and his time to make the transition to the NHL may be near. The Panthers have several good defensemen in their system but it's hard to overlook Robak's swift progression at the professional level.
As of August 21 the Panthers have yet to re-sign restricted free-agent Dmitry Kulikov. If the Cats don't re-sign Kulikov that leaves a gaping hole in the defensive lineup that will most likely be filled by one of their prospects from their AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage. The Rampage have a few defensemen that could make the transition but none are as crafty with the puck or have shown as much promise as Robak.
The Cats drafted Robak 46th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. At that time Robak was playing with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. In the 2009-10 season, one season after he was drafted, Robak put up 66 points with the Kings in only 71 games, which confirmed the Panthers' speculation that Robak was ready to take his game to the next level.
The Panthers promoted Robak to the Rochester Americans of the AHL for the 2010-11 season. His play his first year as a professional wasn't as overpowering as his last couple of seasons with the Kings but Robak managed to take his game up to another level and score 24 points with the Amerks in 76 games.
Robak has shown the intangible ability to adjust his level of play and step his game up when he needs to. This is something that not all hockey players are able to do. Last season Robak led the Rampage in points by a defenseman. Robak doesn't simply sit at the blue line and rip shots either. In the 2011-12 season only nine of his points came from goals while the other 30 came from assists. Robak does what you want a good defenseman to do; he coordinates the offensive push from the back end.
Robak was called up to skate with the Panthers last season. His time in South Florida was limited, he only skated in three games. When the Cats needed to call up a defenseman last year they were more apt to lean on the services of Tyson Strachan who has a bit more NHL experience. Strachan is a solid defenseman but has never shown a nose for the net like Robak has.
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All contract and draft information and from FloridaPanthers.com
Kristian Eberwein is a freelance journalist from Orlando, Florida. He was an English major at the University of Central Florida and has been a part of the Florida hockey community for the past twenty years. Follow him on Twitter @KrisEberwein
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