Hockey prospect is from Main Line, not Moose Jaw

Colby Cohen could be drafted in the first round.

Posted: June 12, 2007

Colby Cohen played the usual Main Line sports as a child - tennis, lacrosse, baseball.

Yet the usual sports didn't seem to interest Cohen. His father, Jay, played club hockey at Wissahickon High School and later, Philadelphia Textile. That was different. Colby liked that.

"Oh, yeah, it was a long shot growing up in Villanova that I would end up playing hockey," the 18-year-old said. "I've been playing hockey since I was 3. Everyone in my family played."

No teenager from the Main Line has ever been selected in the first round of the National Hockey League draft. Cohen could be the first.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenseman is ranked 25th in the Central Scouting final rankings. He figures to be chosen near the bottom of Round One when the draft takes place June 22 and 23 in Columbus, Ohio.

"He's a good young player who skates well and is offensively gifted," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "There's a pretty good chance he'll go in the first round."

The Flyers pick second overall and later at 23d. Cohen said he had been told he was slotted somewhere late in the round.

"They say they like how I played, but you never know what happens in the draft," Cohen said. "We'll see what happens. I'd love to be a Flyer."

If genes mean anything, chances are he'll be in the NHL somewhere. Cohen's cousin is Eagles receiver Jeremy Bloom, who often works out with him.

"I saw what my cousin was doing when I was younger and I knew he was just an unbelievable athlete," Cohen said. "I just hope that I can someday be as good an athlete as him."

Cohen's father recognized that his son had hockey talent. He just wasn't sure how to get the most out of it. So, when Cohen was 9, his father sent him to one of Roger Neilson's hockey camps in Toronto.

Neilson, an innovative coach, guided many NHL teams, including the Flyers.

"Roger told my dad that I would amount to something as a hockey player if I played up, in a more competitive environment," Cohen said. "That was important."

Cohen played at Radnor High School in ninth grade and part of the 10th before moving temporarily to Syracuse, N.Y., to play in the Ontario Provincial Junior A League. He spent 11th grade and most of his senior year with the under-17 team of the U.S. National Team Development Program, based in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Earlier this year, Cohen left the team to play for Lincoln (Neb.) of the United States Hockey League. He will graduate with his class at Radnor High School and has a hockey scholarship to nationally ranked Boston University in the fall.

"When he went to the USHL, it seemed to help him," Holmgren said. "He scored a lot of points."

Cohen had 13 goals and 47 assists in 53 games. But why leave the national team?

"It wasn't a good place for me," Cohen said, adding that the program was too rigid in its defensive philosophy and couldn't improve his offensive game.

"The way I was going to develop for college and the draft, it wasn't going to happen there," he said. "This is a big year for me. I wanted to be as ready as possible for the draft and college hockey. I needed a year of development and I thought I got that in the USHL."

The Flyers say the switch certainly didn't hurt him. Cohen added that Boston University, which had seen him since he was 15, thought he made the right decision as well.

Central Scouting said Cohen needs work on his defensive positioning and has to develop more consistent work habits on the ice.

Cohen planned to concentrate on becoming more like his NHL idol - Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger.

"I try to play as much like him as I can," Cohen said. "He plays a mean game and an offensive game. Good on the penalty kill and power play. I've seen Pronger fight. I can do those things. I can play chippy, too, but I can improve there."


Contact staff writer Tim Panaccio at 215-854-2847 or tpanaccio@phillynews.com.

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