Five picks after selecting Joel Farabee with the 14th overall pick, the Philadelphia Flyers returned to the podium at the NHL Entry Draft with the 19th pick. This time, the team went back to the middle of the ice, but off the board to select Jay O’Brien.
O’Brien, a Massachusetts native, was ranked 24th by Hockeyprospect.com, but as low as 48th by McKeen’s Hockey. Bob McKenzie had the center at 32nd and Corey Pronman at 45.
As for O’Brien’s actual hockey resume, he scored 43-37-80 in 30 games for Thayer Academy in US high school. He will attend Providence College this fall to play college hockey.
Despite being a surprise name, NBCSN’s broadcaster Pierre McGuire immediately commended O’Brien’s skill and character. Pronman noted the center’s skill and ability to create offense off the rush.
However, McGuire said he doesn’t believe O’Brien will be ready for the NHL for another three years — a long timeline for a first-round pick. NBCSN also marked his skating as a weakness, as did Pronman.
HockeyBuzz’s Bill Meltzer mentioned that he thought the Bruins were interested in O’Brien and a former Flyer that speaks glowingly of the 5-foot-11 center’s potential:
I had thought Boston might try to trade up for O'Brien. Fwiw, Tony Amonte has said he has future NHL star written all over him. But he is smallish and exposure to top-end competition is limited.
— Bill Meltzer (@billmeltzer) June 23, 2018
Some notable prospects left on the board included faller Joe Veleno, Rasmus Kupari and defenseman K’Andre Miller.
O’Brien’s selection is a common Ron Hextall move — selecting a prospect off the board and a center that shows character and two-way ability. It’s a similar pick he made last season in Morgan Frost, who has made Hextall look saavy a year later.
See below for a highlight video:
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