With the 2018 NHL Entry Draft completed, it’s time to look at what the Philadelphia Flyers have in the eight players they selected. Although there was some conversation as to whether or not they would keep both the picks, General Manager Ron Hextall held on to the 14th overall and 19th overall selections to take a pair of forwards in Joel Farabee and Jay O’Brien. Let’s take a look at these guys’ numbers and playing styles to see what exactly Hextall was able to bring home from the draft.
Projected to go 12th overall by Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst and 14th overall by DraftSite, it’s no surprise Joel Farabee was taken by the Flyers at 14th overall. He finished second on the U-18 U.S. National Team Development Program with 33 goals, 43 assists, 76 points (all behind Oliver Wahlstrom), and 207 shots on goal. Dating back to the 2015-16 season, Farabee’s 76 points is the fourth-highest point total for a single USNTDP U-18 team player behind Wahlstrom this year, and Clayton Keller and Kieffer Bellows in 2015-16. On top of his monster season with the national team, Farabee also took part in the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game back on September 21st, where he had the lone assist on a Wahlstrom goal in the second period for Team Chelios in a 6-5 loss.
Although The Athletic’s Corey Pronman isn’t sold on him as a consistent top-six level ability, there is a lot to like about Farabee’s game. The New York native isn’t able to blow by opponents with ease, but with above average speed Farabee, as David Castillo of SB Nation’s Defending Big D puts it, “is not the kind of player you give up ice to either.” Farabee isn’t a dynamic skater, but his agility helps him to create plays with his north-south skating style.
When watching his highlights, one can see the above average speed, especially in transition opportunities. He also has a willingness to shoot from anywhere, which he should with his incredible wrist shot, but also showed the ability to out-muscle opponents to generate shots on goal in situations where most players wouldn’t be able to produce anything. Farabee’s ability to set up his teammates with prime scoring opportunities is also evident in this highlight package.
Also, this might be me isolating one play, but I think there’s a little pest in Farabee. To go along with some of his goal celebrations throughout, watch the cheeky little putback on his goal at the 0:25 mark. Although some players didn’t know if the first shot went in, it seemed as though Farabee knew it went in. With that being said, before Farabee went into the corner to celebrate his goal, he decided to gently glide the puck back into the net just to let everybody know, “yeah, that went in.” I see you, Joel.
Castillo also brings up the point that the idea of intangibles is thrown around a lot as a buzzword when describing a player’s skill set. However, there is something to say for Farabee being named the captain of the U-18 team while both his much-hyped linemates Jack Hughes (projected first overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft) and Wahlstrom were also on the roster.
It’s safe to say Jay O’Brien being taken at 19th overall was a bit of a surprise, as Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino had him going 26th overall and DraftSite had him going 42nd.
After he finished the 2016-17 campaign with 65 points in 30 games for Thayer Academy in Braintree, Massachusetts with the second-best points-per-game average among U.S. high school hockey players, O’Brien declined an opportunity to join the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League to remain with his high school team. While playing another year of high school hockey, O’Brien finished second in all of U.S. high school prep hockey with 43 goals, tied for 12th with 37 assists, and third with 80 points in just 30 games. O’Brien’s 2.67 points-per-game average made him the only player in U.S. high school prep to average 2 points per game or more with at least 30 games played. O’Brien’s monster season helped him to be named the 2018 American Family Insurance All-USA Boys Hockey Player of the Year.
To go along with impressive point totals, O’Brien has a work ethic and an ability to hustle that many around the first rounder recognized. On top of his season at Thayer Academy, O’Brien also traveled to join the U.S. U-18 team to play in exhibition games against college programs. His head coach, some guy named Tony Amonte, had this to say about the new Flyers’ pick as well (from Sportsnet):
“He can skate and he’s got a motor,” said Tony Amonte, head coach of Thayer Academy. “It’s tough to play against him. If you take the puck away from him, he’s going to chop your leg off to get it back.”
In terms of his playing style, some feel as though O’Brien’s game is reminiscent of a few NHL players, even if it’s evident he isn’t expected to reach the potential of those players. Ben Kerr of Last Word On Hockey says O’Brien’s game is similar to Nathan MacKinnon’s, while Kyle from SB Nation’s Winging It In Motown compares his playing style to Tyler Seguin.
Next week we’ll see what the Orange and Black have with Adam Ginning, Jack St. Ivany, and Wyatte Wylie.
*All stats courtesy of Elite Prospects and USNTDP website