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Jay O’Brien is a prospect that has not gotten a lot of exposure. He spent the majority of this season playing high school hockey at Thayer Academy in the USHS-prep school system. The numbers are eye-popping as he scored 43 goals and 37 assists for 80 points in just 30 games. O’Brien also eight games for the Cape Cod Whalers U18 team, scoring six goals and two assists. Now we are not going to pretend that we have access to those games, and so we haven’t seen O’Brien put up the big numbers. But with the buzz that he has created in scouting circles, we were intrigued and checked out some of his more high profile games.
O’Brien appeared in seven exhibition games for the US National Team Development Program, playing against NCAA competition. While the numbers are not huge, he scored just one goal and one assist, his talent on the ice was visible and undeniable. Over the last two years, he has also played in a total of five USHL games for the Youngstown Phantoms. Earlier in the year, he also played in the All-American Top Prospects game in Buffalo. O’Brien was very good and scored a goal on that night.
O’Brien is committed to play for Providence College next season.
Jay O’Brien Scouting Report
Center — shoots Right
Born November 4th, 1999 — Hingham, Massachusetts
Height 6’0″ — Weight 174 lbs [183 cm/79 kg]
O’Brien is an excellent skater. He has very good top-end speed and reaches it in just a few strides. His first step is very quick and allows him to gain separation from his opponents. He can create odd-man rushes and breakaways with that speed. He also can beat defenders to the outside and get to the net. O’Brien also has very good agility and edgework. He beats defenders in one-on-one situations. He still needs to get stronger, especially in his lower body. This would make him stronger on the puck and improve his balance.
O’Brien marries his excellent skating ability with very good stickhandling. He is able to handle the puck at top speed and make moves on defenders. He has the skill to get by a defender, cut to the net, and the soft hands to beat the goaltender. O’Brien also has an excellent wrist shot. He can score from the top of the circles. His release is quick and is also deceptive for goaltenders. O’Brien has a knack for getting open and finding the soft spots in the defence. This allows him to get off a quick wrist shot or one-timer.
O’Brien is much more of a goal scorer than a playmaker at this point. However, he does have some decent playmaking ability. Off the rush, he uses changes in speed and quick cuts to open up passing lanes and get the puck to a linemate. He anticipates plays well and makes the smart pass. However, O’Brien doesn’t seem to be the type of passer to put the puck through really tight areas or have a lot of saucer passes. Instead, he needs to create the lane to make the play. With his skating and stickhandling, he’s been able to make that happen though.
O’Brien works hard in the defensive zone. He is willing to backcheck and support the defence down low. However, playing in prep school hockey means that he hasn’t had the opportunity to work on his defensive fundamentals. Positioning and anticipation are areas that he could use some good coaching in. At the level he’s been playing, he has been on the offence nearly every time he is on the ice. O’Brien has the potential to be a strong two-way player, but will need work.
Projection and Comparison
O’Brien is a project. He will need some time to adjust to faster games, and to the level of competition, he will face in the NCAA. Expect him to spend a year or two in college before moving on to the pros. There is high-end potential though, and this could be a very good risk/reward type pick for a team. O’Brien’s game is reminiscent of Nathan MacKinnon, however, this is just a stylistic comparison and not one based on potential or ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages of O’Brien that are available on youtube. With O’Brien, the content is a bit sparse.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Embed from Getty Images
BUFFALO, NY – SEPTEMBER 21: Bode Wilde #4 of Team Leetch checks Jay O’Brien #21 of Team Chelios in the third period during the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game at the KeyBank Center on September 21, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. Team Leetch beat Team Chelios 6-5. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)