No. 17: O’Brien shows some spark

New kid on the block.

It’s happening, you guys! For the first time in this summer’s 25 Under 25, we get to talk about a brand new person! How cool is that!

In a lot of ways, O’Brien is very new—if you’re not someone who was deep into the draft, you might have been caught like me, looking vaguely around at my friends at the bar asking “who?” when he was selected. But the signs still point to this being a good pick, and O’Brien’s given us a number of pieces to be impressed by.

No. 17: Jay O’Brien

Position: C
Age: 18 (11/4/1999)
Size: 5’11”, 176 (via)
Acquired Via: 2018 NHL Draft — Round 1, Pick 19
2017-18 League/Team/Statistics: Thayer Academy (USHS) – 43 G, 37 A in 30 GP
Nationality: American
Ranking in BSH Winter 2018 25 Under 25: Unranked (not in system)

We can start by looking at his senior season at Thayer Academy.

Well, maybe “looking” is a bit of a stretch. Outside of a game’s worth of highlights, there isn’t much tape out there on O’Brien. So it’s a little hard to talk about his season, for us anyway, outside of the numbers. But those numbers are pretty good! 43 goals? 80 points? In 30 games? Not too bad at all.

Now, you say, let’s pull back a moment. That was in high school. And we don’t know what those points and games looked like. Shouldn’t we roll back the enthusiasm just a little bit?

Sure, that’s fair. But, we can also get a little bit more excited, because we have also been given a taste of his play at the next level, playing against peers of his same skill level at this year’s World Junior Summer Showcase. And he looked good! In his four games played, he recorded two goals and two assists and showed some very distinct skill. I mean, just take a look at this goal (his first of two in Team USA’s final game against Canada).

Just… take a moment with that one. It’s so pretty.

And, we should note, that while he was very good in this tournament, he wasn’t the best player, and perhaps not even the best Flyers prospect (Joel Farabee, hello). But he was still very good, and that’s what we needed. Even after a solid showing at development camp, O’Brien remained something of an open question. Yes he scored a ton in his draft year. Yes he seems to be abundantly skilled. Absolutely. But he’s flashed this skill against a bunch of high schoolers. That’s all. What do we really have here? And while it remains a small sample, if nothing else, his performance at the WJSS serves as something of a reassurance—he can elevate his play against tougher competition, and his skillset translates to this bigger stage.

And, hey, that’s a pretty nice segue into our look forward. Given all of this, what do we want to see from O’Brien, what do we expect?

To put it simply, we need to see more of what he gave us at the WJSS, and sustained across a season. This fall, O’Brien’s set to begin his first season with Providence in the Hockey East division, playing with and against some of the most talented players he has, to date. We can expect that there may be something of an adjustment period that needs to take place, as well, and this certainly isn’t unreasonable, but we need to see that he can continue to hold his own against other high end players, above the high school level. And, as of right now, it appears that O’Brien has the skills to do this—solid speed and skating, very nice puck skills, and a little bit of fiestiness, to boot—it’s there. We just need to see that he can put it all together.

And, the bright side to all this is that he will also seem to have to time to do so, should he need it. As a first round pick, we almost expect him to be on some kind of fast track to the NHL, and this may not be entirely fair. It’s not realistic for everyone. And that’s okay. Pedigree aside, O’Brien is another center prospect in a pipeline veritably loaded with them. With a number of centers ahead of him—Morgan Frost and Mikhail Vorobyev, for example—on the prospect depth chart, there isn’t exactly a need to rush him along so he can fill a void on the present roster. The pieces ahead of him can fill in as needed, and he can just get where he needs to be in his own time. If that takes a little longer, no problem. And if he just develops at an insane pace and pushes for a roster spot sooner than we would have ever imagined? All the better.


Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Summer 2018 Top 25 Under 25:

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