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By the numbers: Behind Jay O’Brien and Jack St. Ivany’s opening weekends

Two more prospects get rolling.

Heather Barry / SB Nation

We’re back with even more prospect talk, folks! While some of the Flyers’ prospects were plugging away in the World Juniors, a couple were still waiting to start playing in the first place. But two more got rolling this weekend with a couple of games in Hockey East. Boston University finally got to kick off their season on Friday, and Jay O’Brien got in his first game of the season, and fresh in from his transfer from Yale, back after the break, Jack St. Ivany made his debut with Boston College. It’s a brand new season with brand new teams for both of these players, and we’re here to take a deeper look at their first weekends of play. We’ve got a bunch of stats to parse through and a whole lot of thoughts, so let’s just dive right in.

All micro-stats manually tracked by me. Player CF% and HDCF% are on-ice, Controlled Exit and Entry% are individual.

Jay O’Brien. Forward. Boston University

5v5 On-Ice Stats

x CF% HDCF% Controlled Entry% Controlled Exit%
x CF% HDCF% Controlled Entry% Controlled Exit%
1/8 O'Brien 42.86 16.66 66.67 75
1/8 Team 40 38.71 44.64 43.06
1/9 O'Brien 28.57 20 33.33 100
1/9 Team 32.93 31.82 50 58.73

O’Brien got off to a hot start to the season, picking up two goals and an assist against his old team in Providence, and seemed to be settling in just fine in his return to Hockey East. He played, overall, a steady game for himself on a weekend when, despite splitting their series, BU got pretty well shelled in both games and really struggled at times to get their offense going.

O’Brien’s individual numbers at 5-on-5 are fine enough—he picked up four individual shot attempts and one high danger chance between the two games—as he was able to generate a couple of looks for himself at evens, bringing a bit more depth to his game outside of racking up looks on BU’s top power play unit (where, to be clear, he did also look really sharp).

The on-ice shot impacts, though, are a bit of a mixed bag. Friday’s game, by the numbers, was pretty poor for BU as they got both caved in at 5-on-5, giving up a lot of shot attempts and high danger chances, and struggled to move the puck in transition with possession. O’Briens numbers, in a vacuum, weren’t stellar, but relative to his team’s performance without him on the ice, we can feel pretty good about that performance. Saturday, though, saw a bit of a flip, as O’Brien’s numbers slipped below the team average (which, again, was not good). Those numbers from Saturday’s game, it may be worth noting, ended up being a bit skewed by two tough shifts where his line was hemmed in the defensive zone and just getting peppered with shots while he and his teammates failed to find a way to get the puck cleared.

(Did he rise to the occasion to be the one to finally break them out? Well, no, but it’s a team game, you know? Anyway.)

It’s a two game sample, and we expect to see some variance. And a few poor shifts will weigh heavily on the overall average. We’ll keep an eye on this.

The transition numbers bring a similar mixed bag element. As we noted, Friday saw the team in general really struggling in transition, but O’Brien was not just able to outperform the team average, but to fully excel, emerging as one of the team’s stronger and most consistent controlled entry and exit generator. Saturday, though, saw a bit of a drop off—his exit numbers remained strong (he controlled all three of his successful exits), but the entry numbers fell off, and he only controlled one of this three entries.

We do see, when he's moving up-ice in transition with control, he’s particularly effective because he’s hard to push off pucks, he can be a real force in that way, so we’d like to see even more of that.

Overall, it was a strong debut for O’Brien, not perfect, but still strong. He came in flexing a lot of what makes him interesting and effective as a player—strong forechecking, good pace, well rounded instincts, and yes, a bit of scoring flash to boot. It’s been something of a weird run for him over the last two years, but BU may well be a good landing spot for him, and he certainly did well to lay a strong foundation for his time there.

Jack St. Ivany. Defense. Boston College

5v5 Stats

x CF% HDCF% Controlled Entry% Controlled Exit%
x CF% HDCF% Controlled Entry% Controlled Exit%
1/8 St. Ivany 58.06 61.54 75 100
1/8 Team 58.25 53.19 66.2 53.85
1/10 St. Ivany 50 40 100 71.43
1/10 Team 62.5 60.71 56.06 63.93

St. Ivany too looked really strong in his Boston College debut in their two game series against the University of New Hampshire (which the teams split). The team had been rolling before this weekend, having already played six games before St. Ivany officially joined the team, so he had the task ahead of him of jumping on a moving train, as it were, and he seemed to do well with it. His 5-on-5 minutes were somewhat limited, but he got time on both the power play (co-running the second power play unit from the right point, and some time on the penalty kill as well).

Looking at the numbers, we’ve got solid statistics across the board—even though he came away from the weekend without any points, the underlying numbers were really solid. They had a few rough patches within each game, but overall BC came out with the edge in possession, both in shot attempts and high danger chances. And even as the team did well in both of these departments, St. Ivany did well relative to its average in just about every instance. Sunday was the rougher showing, relatively speaking, but even then, the Corsi-For differential was still breakeven, which is fine, and the high danger chance differential is the only weak spot (and even then, he had been cruising along with a comfortable edge in that differential until late in the game when Spencer Knight left the puck loose in the crease and allowed UNH to get three chances in on rebounds. So it goes). On the whole, he was steady across those two games, and held his own in contributing to his generally strong shot impacts, pitching in seven shot attempts and two high danger chances at 5-on-5 across those two games.

The transition numbers, too, were sound in both games. We saw him leading a few entries, and he looked solid in it, controlling four of his six successful entries. On the flip side, St. Ivany didn’t get a ton of touches on exits in his two games, as he totaled seven successful exit (plus just one failed exit), but he proved to be really reliable when tasked with breaking the puck out, as two of those exits were carries and five successful breakout passes. We even saw him leading a couple of end-to-end rushes, which was kind of a treat to see—there’s some solid mobility there, and a definite confidence in moving the puck.

That also leads us to turn back to the eye test for a moment (and perhaps one of our bigger questions relating to his development), and we can say that the skating’s still something that we’re keeping an eye on—it was a weakness heading into his draft, but it’s been steadily coming along since then. It’s still a work in progress—we caught a couple of moments when the stride looked a little wonky—but it certainly is progressing, getting smoother and less stilted, which is certainly encouraging to see.

But overall, there was a lot to like about his debut with BC. He brings a pretty well rounded game, being a good puck mover, solid in defending the front of the net, and able to chip in a bit of offense when the space opens up for it. He isn’t afraid to make a play, and that makes the team extra threatening when he’s on the ice. This is a team that’s already found some success, winning five of their first six games before he joined and proving to be a distinct offensive threat, but he’s fitting in easily, and looks like he may well to the piece needed to give the (admittedly quite small) defense corps a boost, and help bump the team to the next level.