Whether he plays in the British Columbia Hockey League next season or at Boston University, Flyers prospect Jay O’Brien is hoping his road to the NHL is less bumpy than it was during his freshman year at Providence.
Selected by the Flyers in the first round (19th overall) in 2018, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound center struggled at Providence during a season interrupted by a concussion and an injured left shoulder.
“I never felt like myself, never got into a rhythm,” he said after practice at the Flyers’ development camp Friday in Voorhees. “I wasn’t having as much fun as I usually have, and I want to get back to my game and have fun.”
O’Brien had just five points in 25 games and said he didn’t feel comfortable at the school.
“I committed there when I was 15,” he said. “You don’t really know what you’re looking for in a college when you’re 15 years old. Things change and you try to take the positives from it. I’m happy for what Providence gave me, but the best for me was to leave. I need a fresh start.”
Originally, he planned to play in the BCHL this upcoming season and then attend Boston University the following year. But he has since filed a petition with the NCAA that would allow him to play at BU in 2019-20.
Athletes have to sit out a year when transferring from one Division I school to another, but occasional exceptions have been granted. Providence would have to agree to it.
Based on past cases, it would be surprising if the NCAA permits him to play at BU this season, and O’Brien will likely play for coach Fred Harbinson’s Penticton Vees in the BCHL.
“It’s a great spot. Great coach, great location, and the fans are really passionate,” O’Brien said before scoring a pair of goals in a three-on-three tournament Friday. “They’ve had lots of draft picks from there.”
O’Brien is completely healthy now and has looked good at the prospects camp.
“He’s been training with a group in Boston, and from what I saw from the beginning of the year to now, he’s made significant strides, strength-wise," said Brent Flahr, a Flyers assistant general manager.
Flahr said O’Brien, who was drafted out of high school, has a “lot of energy. He likes to play with pace.”
O’Brien, 19, needs to keep getting stronger, Flahr said.
“Stepping from high school to the college level is a challenge. It’s never easy,” Flahr said. “It doesn’t matter how good you are. He’s learned that. It’s probably the first time in his career he went through any adversity at any level. He battled through some injuries, but hopefully that’s behind him and he can put his best foot forward.”
Isaac Ratcliffe and Wade Allison, the two best power-forward prospects in the Flyers system, each scored a total of four goals in four three-on-three tournament games at the team’s development camp Friday
Allison, who still isn’t totally recovered from ACL surgery 17 months ago, scored twice in the final, including a goal with 4.9 seconds left in regulation to tie the score, 2-2. Allison’s teammate, 2019 draftee Mason Millman, gave Team White a 3-2 overtime win over Team Black.
Allison said his right knee “started bugging me a little near the end, just because I’ve been on it multiple times today, so I’m going to have some good rehab treatment tonight.”
He expects to play in the five-on-five tourney at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Allison said it was “good to be out there with the boys.”
“Just went out there and had some fun,” said the 6-foot-1, 176-pound Millman, an Ontario Hockey League defenseman taken in the fourth round of the draft last Saturday.
Millman, who is just 17, said he was using development camp to improve his all-around game.
“Definitely a lot of learning experiences,” he said. "I’m just being a sponge and learning from the older guys. There’s a lot of talent here and a lot of high-class players.”
Flahr and general manager Chuck Fletcher agreed, saying it was the deepest prospect pool they have ever had in their front-office careers.