An unexpected accolade, Robak is All-Star bound

By: Jim Charshafian

Colby Robak didn’t start the season with All-Star aspirations. The 21-year-old San Antonio Rampage defenseman was focused on getting better and adjusting to life as a professional as he entered his second year in the American Hockey League. But his five goals and 19 assists in his sophomore season earned him a spot among the league’s premier players when he was selected to play for the Western Conference squad at the AHL All-Star Classic on January 30th in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“It’s definitely a huge honor to be invited,” Robak said. “It’s something I never thought about until (coach Chuck Weber) pulled me aside and said ‘you’ve been nominated.’ It’s a huge accomplishment for me and I’m very excited.”

Robak, a second-round pick of the Florida Panthers in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, becomes the 11th player in Rampage history to be named to the AHL All-Star Classic, joining a list that includes Filip Novak (02-03), Eric Beaudoin (03-04), Jay Bouwmeester (04-05), Matt Jones (05-06), Bill Thomas (06-07), Joel Perrault (07-08), Brett MacLean twice (08-09 and 10-11), Sean Sullivan (09-10), and Garrett Stafford (10-11). Stafford, a member of the team last season, was the first Rampage player to be selected to start in the exhibition. In the cases of Eric Beaudoin, Jones, Thomas, Perrault, and Stafford, they were eventually replaced to play in the game by Denis Shvidki, Layne Ulmer, Keith Yandle, Joey Tenute, and Mathieu Beaudoin, respectively.

In 42 games this year, Robak has already matched his entire point total (24) for the 2010-11 season with the Rochester Americans, where Weber was his coach as well. Not only has Robak’s offensive production been markedly better, but he has improved his play his own end, as evidence by his team-leading plus-minus rating of plus-11.

“I think last year was more of a learning experience,” he said. “Last year Chuck and (assistant coach Jason Cipolla) sat me down a lot. This year I came in with more confidence. I took what they taught me last year, brought it into this year, and it started working. I’m trying to build on that and keep working.”

Weber said Robak’s belief in himself this season has been the key to his success.

“He’s playing with more confidence this year and that’s a big deal,” said Weber. “It’s a big jump for kids to go from juniors, where they’re playing against other kids, to the pros, where they’re playing against men. I think he’s got the confidence now where he feels he can dominate at this level.

“It’s been a huge improvement for him from his rookie year to his second year. He’s matured both in his defensive play and his overall play. He’s really made a huge impact for us and he’s a deserving pick to be the All-Star representing San Antonio.”

The Rampage, who have played a style predicated on defense for most of the season, have gotten a boost from Robak’s production from the back end.

“Getting our defensemen up into the play and being able to attack as a five-man unit is a big part of our game,” said Weber. “Colby being able to make a solid first pass as well as his shot from the blueline are very important to our offense, and you can see that in his offensive numbers so far.”

“I see myself as a two-way defenseman,” said Robak. “I’m starting to recognize the right time to jump up into the play when the opportunity is there.”

The Dauphin, Manitoba native admits getting on the score sheet is nice, but he knows his first priority is to protect his own net.

“My job is to take care of our end first,” he said. “My plus-minus is something I watch quite a bit and I try to keep on the plus-side every night. If I can chip in a point here or there, then it’s a bonus.”

What separates Robak from other blueliners, in Weber’s opinion, is the defenseman’s mobility.

“His skating ability is special for his size,” said Weber of the 6-foot-3 210-pound Robak. “He can get up in the play as well as get back and help out defensively. He recognizes when to move up in the play and when not to. He’s made some pretty big strides in his decision making.”

Robak attributes much of his improvement this season to being paired with two veteran defensemen, Nolan Yonkman and Tyson Strachan, for a majority of the 2011-12 campaign.

“I feel like I’ve grown playing with Yonkman and Strachan. They’ve helped my development so much this year along with Chuck and Cippy too.”

According to Weber, Robak’s All-Star selection will be the first accolade in a very promising career.

“The sky’s the limit for Colby,” Weber said. “He’s a big kid. He’s a sponge. He wants to learn and get better every day. He’s what we call a ‘rinkrat.’ He loves being on the ice and playing the game. If he continues to work the way he does, he’s not going to be just an NHL defenseman, he’s going to be a top-four NHL defenseman and have a long career.” 

That wouldn’t be too bad of a turnout for a player who was just trying to become comfortable on a professional rink back in October.

Search Archive »

Browse by Year »


Browse by Month »

July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
@@block(4000, 0, content)@@