I'm going to go ahead and apologize in advance, because we have very little information on Nikolas Koberstein, and it hasn't been easy to unearth a lot of details. The 6'02" Right handed defenseman comes to us from Junior A in Alberta, which should suffice to explain why he flew completely under the radar in seemingly every draft guide. Committed to NCAA hockey the season after next, it may be a while before we see this player trying out for the Tricolore, but the all important question remains: Who is Nikolas Koberstein?
A product of Barrhead, Alberta (yes, that's a real place) Koberstein led the Olds Grizzlys of the AJHL in scoring by a defenseman last season as a rookie. He also put up 153 PIMs in 55 games, so it seems he's no stranger to the rough stuff. A good showing at the AJHL showcase earned him a spot at the University of... Fairbanks, Alaska. As mentioned he is a 6'2" Right handed defenseman, listed around 205 pounds. Being that the Habs have a gaping hole on the right side of their defense, he fills an organizational need, but definitely not immediately as he will be spending another season in the AJHL before heading to Alaska.
It is pretty damn hard to find any information on this guy. What I've garnered is that he has some offensive ability, but is more known for his physical play and size than he is for offensive flair. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2011 WHL Draft by the Regina Pats, but didn't make it in the dub which could be construed as a red flag. From what people have written though, it seems that he was in talks with a number of NCAA schools including Fairbanks after the AJHL showcase, so he must have at least turned some heads there. He's also a total Western Canadian farm boy, and his Twitter account is laden with references to livestock, if that has any bearing whatsoever on your thoughts relating to his hockey abilities...
Marc Dumont was able to pull this tidbit about the bruising rearguard after the pick came in:
Nikolas follows in the footsteps of former Grizzlys Ian Perkins, Jim Lawrence, Darcy Campbell and others who have gone on to Fairbanks. Nikolas has been a player who plays in all situations with the Grizz this season and just returned from the 2013 CJHL Prospects game.
"Nik has had a tremendous season with us so far this year," said Grizzlys Head Coach Brett Hopfe. "Nik has had many generous offers to move on to the next level and has chosen UAF, which is a great school with a brand new state of the art dressing room. We are happy to have Nik back for one more year to help develop him into a force for the Nanooks. With Nik's skill set and work ethic I would not be surprised to see him playing at the professional level when his time with UAF is done."
And I managed to find some info via collegehockeyinc.com
Thirteen players have made commitments since the league held its AJHL Showcase in late September in Spruce Grove, Alta. Three of those came in a 32-day span for the Olds Grizzlys, capped off by Nikolas Koberstein’s commitment to Alaska in late November.
"It’s fantastic," Koberstein said this week of the exposure in the AJHL. "There’s always people watching you, every game. The showcase was crazy. You couldn’t really let it distract you because you wanted to play your best, but there were a ton of schools watching."
A 17-year-old rookie in the AJHL, Koberstein has adjusted well, leading Grizzlys’ defensemen in scoring. Immediately after the showcase he was in contact with multiple schools, but a visit from Alaska head coach Dallas Ferguson clinched it for him.
"He showed a lot of interest, and my family and I really liked him," said Koberstein, who hails from the rural town of Barrhead, north of Edmonton. "He’s a Western Canadian guy, a farm boy, just like me. When he came down to visit it just felt right."
Two of Koberstein’s teammates in Olds, Spencer Dorowicz (Robert Morris) and Chris Gerrie (Michigan Tech) also made commitments recently. With a holiday break coming up, they can relax knowing their NCAA future.
For Koberstein, who attended a College Hockey Inc. summit in Spruce Grove two years ago, college hockey has always been a goal, even after being drafted in the seventh round by the WHL’s Regina Pats in 2011.
"I tried to keep all my options open," he said. "Schooling has always been important to me, and it makes sense to pursue it while playing hockey at such a high level."
NHL central scouting has the only projected draft ranking I could find for him, and they ranked him 205th among North American Skaters. Given this ranking, the lack of information about him, and the fact that he was picked at 125, I have to hope that Trevor Timmins and company know something about him that we don't. The reason why he had some appeal to the Habs is clear: he has size, grit, and plays right defense. Is this enough to warrant using the 125th pick to get him? I would argue that it is not.
This one is a real head scratcher for me, folks. A junior A defenseman, picked completely off the board, who is also committed to an NCAA school I hadn't heard of before his selection. I apologize again for the lack of solid information to go on, but if you've tried to research him yourself you'll know my pain. I'm unfortunately resigned right now to the opinion that this pick was about size because I have yet to read or see anything that could lead me to believe otherwise.
Trevor Timmins did open up briefly about Koberstein after the draft. Here's what he had to say:
"Koberstein was a guy we went under the radar, we had our fingerprints all over. We spent some time with him after the season, and I think this guy has some good upside and long range projection. He's a great kid, tons of character but he's a good hockey player too..."
In regards to his commitment to Fairbanks of the NCAA:
"He'll come to our development camp next week and we'll go from there. He's a guy we call a five-year player. He'll go back to Olds, be the captain, be the leader, play there another year and then go to the NCAA. It's a five year potential commitment on him."
Judging from that it would seem that Nikolas showed the Habs scouting team something that seems to be escaping everyone else. If you check out his interview on the Habs website, you can see he does not hesitate to acknowledge the off-the-board nature of the pick and that they had their eye on him. If you trust Trevor Timmins, which I do, there's always the chance that the Habs are on to something here.
I'll open it up to the readers now. Do you think the Habs made a bad pick? Do they know something we don't know about a decidedly obscure prospect? And hey, if you know something about this guy that we have yet to mention please let us know.