Flyers Prospect Watch: The Jay O’Brien Decision

NHL: NHL Draft
Jun 22, 2018; Dallas, TX, USA; Jay O’Brien puts on a team jersey after being selected as the number nineteen overall pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

By now, you all know the news. Jay O’Brien is taking his talents to the British Columbia Hockey League next season to play for the Penticton Vees.

The news is now a few days old and immediate reactions have settled. Our minds are now clear and it is time to revisit the O’Brien situation more in-depth so we can obtain a better understanding of why this decision was made.

Happy High School Years

Unlike every other prospect taken in the first round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Jay O’Brien played his pre-draft hockey in high school for Thayer Academy. Yes, the high school route is uncommon. However, players such as Jeremy Roenick, Brooks Orpik, Ryan Whitney, and Charlie Coyle all played for Thayer Academy.

At the well-known prep school, O’Brien became a star. In 60 games through two years, the Massachusetts native posted 145 points. In his draft-eligible year alone, O’Brien recorded 43 goals and 37 assists in 30 games. Additionally, he made the USHS All-USA Hockey First Team and won the USHS All-USA Hockey Player of the Year.

Although his success took place against lower-level competition, O’Brien’s accomplishments caught the attention of former Flyer General Manager, Ron Hextall. Philadelphia drafted Jay O’Brien 19th-overall in 2018, surprising many who thought the pick was a reach.

Freshman Year Failure

Now, maybe failure is too strong of a word. However, it sounds catchy in a subheading. O’Brien’s freshman year at Providence College was filled with struggles to stay healthy and a failure to produce on the ice when healthy. In 25 games, O’Brien scored just two goals and recorded three assists. Additionally, he played seven games for Team USA in the World Junior Championships. Unfortunately, O’Brien failed to record a single point.

Regardless of the injury struggles, it is safe to say that O’Brien’s freshman year was a disappointment. Of course, his underwhelming freshman year led to O’Brien entering the NCAA Transfer Portal in late April.

Hello Penticton

With Providence College in the rear-view, Jay O’Brien will now set his sights on performing at a high-level for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL. Last season, the Vees finished in first place of the Interior Division with 79 points. Although Penticton finished with the third-best record in the BCHL, they suffered an early exit in the postseason.

Under three-time BCHL Coach of the Year, Fred Harbinson, O’Brien will look to have an immediate with the Vees and assist in their quest for the Doyle Cup. One of O’Brien’s biggest reasons for leaving the NCAA is that he felt he would benefit from playing more games in a season. With 58 games in the BCHL regular season, he will be able to do just that.

With his decision to play in the BCHL, Jay O’Brien is eligible to return to the NCAA for the 2020-21 season. I’m sure that O’Brien feels that he will take the necessary steps in his development to do just that.

At first glance, O’Brien’s decision about where to play next season appears like a step backward. In some ways, it is. However, not every prospect takes the same path and it is too early to accurately project O’Brien’s future in professional hockey. Let’s hope that the young forward has a strong season for the Vees and his journey towards playing for the Flyers one day gets back on track.

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports