Jay O’Brien is a bust.
Raise your hand if you’ve either said or thought that statement. A large quantity of us, myself included, are guilty of doing so.
Of course, we had our reasons. From a failed tenure at Providence to a good but not dominant year in the BCHL to an unplanned interruption due to COVID, things started to look bleak for the 2018 first-rounder.
It turns out, all Jay O’Brien needed was for Boston University hockey to get up and running. It took a while, January 8th, to be exact. However, once the Terriers got rolling, so did O’Brien, changing his young career’s narrative and perception.
Before the Redemption Tour
O’Brien’s post-draft career has been far from roses and rainbows. The start to his NCAA tenure transformed into a complete failure, recording a measly five points in 25 games with Providence. It became abundantly clear that the Friars and Jay O’Brien were far from a perfect match. With an unclear future in his current situation, the Thayer Academy alum chose to rebound in the BCHL the following season.
Though O’Brien’s run with Penticton produced positive signs, 66 points in 46 games, some questioned whether he reached the dominant level many felt he needed to obtain. While averaging 1.43 points per game is nothing to scoff at, it also was not Alex Newhook level either. Typically, top-level talent produces close to two points per game in the BCHL. O’Brien wasn’t quite there.
Still, all that truly mattered was how he performed once he reached Boston University for the 2020-21 NCAA season.
Jay O’Brien Fitting in with Terriers
Boston University’s 2020-21 campaign experienced some initial hiccups, delaying their start to the year. Beginning play in early January, the Terriers have only laced up their skates for 11 games. Disregarding the limited amount of games, Jay O’Brien is making an immediate impact with his new team.
Playing in all of Boston’s games, O’Brien worked at 1.09 points per game pace, locking up seven goals and five assists. In just his first go-around with the program, he already led all forwards in goals and points. Although it’s tough to argue with the production, he demonstrated some streakiness. Throughout the 11 contests, O’Brien recorded four pointless efforts and four multi-point games. When he scored, he scored in bunches. However, there were quiet nights as well. Of course, this isn’t out of the ordinary, especially for a player such as O’Brien. While with Penticton, he was no stranger to the multi-point game.
The most important part of O’Brien’s production is it translated into wins and increased his personal confidence. The Terriers secured nine wins, only falling victims to defeat in the opening game against Providence and a closely fought battle against Boston College. O’Brien played a key role in his team’s success, a very different situation from what he experienced with the Friars.
What Does it all Mean?
Though O’Brien’s 2020-21 effort with BU is a bright spot, the Flyers prospect is far from out of the woods. Just because he produced a solid 11 games doesn’t mean he is all of a sudden destined for the NHL. At the same time, it’s difficult to argue the importance of this shortened year.
After two years of uncertainty and outward doubt, his development appears to be back on track. Producing at the level he did injected a necessary amount of confidence into Jay O’Brien that he can now build on. Is he ready for the AHL? Not at all. He needs a “normal” NCAA season to build off this year and take his game to a dominant level.
Patience is the key with the former 19th-overall pick. First-round selections are always held to a different standard. Many expect their journey to the NHL to be shorter than other prospects. The truth is that isn’t always the case. Every young player is different, and Jay O’Brien needs the Flyers to allow him the necessary time to develop. Even though we are a while away from O’Brien pulling an orange and black sweater over his head, we can now breathe a little easier, knowing it still is a possibility.