Oh how the tables have turned for the Flyers’ two first-round picks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
Okay well Jay O’Brien was probably always going to be a bit behind Joel Farabee, but a forgettable NCAA freshman year has put the former Thayer Academy standout falling back in the Flyers’ crowded prospect pool while Farabee charges to the forefront.
It’s not O’Brien’s fault that he suffered through injuries during a wash of a season playing for Providence College. It’s also really not his fault that Farabee had a monster freshman season at Boston University and a stellar showing for Team USA this summer that has essentially vaulted him into NHL roster talk after turning pro after his college season.
But despite a disappointing 2018-19 —and O’Brien would likely be the first to tell you just how disappointed he was personally— the 19-year-old still possesses the same high-end skill that made him a first-round pick and is certainly still one worth waiting for in the Flyers’ system...it just might be awhile.
No. 24: Jay O’Brien
Age: 19 (11/4/1999)
Size: 5’11”, 185
Acquired Via: 2018 NHL Draft -- Round 1, Pick 19
2018-19 League/Team/Statistics: Providence (NCAA) - 2 G, 3 A in 25 GP
Ranking in BSH Winter 2019 25 Under 25: 20
After amassing a scoring record at Thayer Academy, where he broke former NHLer Tony Amonte’s long-standing goal scoring record, one figured O’Brien’s skill to play well at Providence, but that simply didn’t materialize mostly due to injuries.
O’Brien suffered a concussion and a slew of other nagging injuries on his way to just five points in 25 games during his freshman season. After scoring at a historic rate in high school there was bound to be some drop-off with the steep uptick in competition, but the injuries piled up and really robbed O’Brien of any chance to get comfortable in what can be a difficult transition to the NCAA game under the best circumstances.
While O’Brien is now healthy, we’ll have to wait to see how he stacks up against top competition for a bit more.
O’Brien left Providence College and will play the 2019-20 season in the British Columbia Hockey League with the Penticton Vees after failing to receive a waiver from the NCAA to transfer immediately to Boston University, Farabee’s old school. Though there’s a drop-off from the NCAAs to the BCHL, it’ll give O’Brien a chance to play against solid competition and get himself right before jumping back in with the Terriers in 2020-21. Perhaps at that point O’Brien would be back to the status that saw him as a fast riser in his draft year, and potentially an option for the Phantoms or Flyers after a year at BU.
As for the player, O’Brien flashed at the Flyers’ recent Development Camp, with our own Jake Fahringer noting the same speed, agility, puck control, and creativity that scouts saw leading up to his draft year. That’s kind of the bag with O’Brien, a highly skilled forward who is creative and agile in the offensive zone. Sounds a bunch like former Flyer Danny Briere, and the makings of something special that then-GM Ron Hextall may have unearthed in the second half of the first round of the 2018 draft.
While O’Brien has showed up glimpses of his special talents on the ice in the past —and even recently— we’re in a wait and see mode with the 19-year-old as he gets himself back on track after what amounted to a lost season. Given his tough year and the Flyers’ already deep prospect pool expanding, it’s not shocking to see O’Brien drop four spots from his No. 20 winter ranking.
But he’s got all the tools to bounce back, and we won’t be surprised if he’s back scoring at a high rate this coming season in the BCHL with the Vees if he’s working with a clean bill of health. If he does, he’ll find himself climbing back up these rankings, and it wouldn’t surprise to see him higher during the winter slate of these rankings.
Until then, we wait and see.
Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Summer 2019 Top 25 Under 25: