After a difficult freshman season in which he never got into a rhythm because of a concussion and a shoulder injury, Flyers prospect Jay O’Brien has decided to leave Providence.
Selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, the 5-foot-10, 174-pound center had just five points (two goals, three assists) in 25 games this past season for Providence, which reached the NCAA’s Frozen Four.
“It was a tough year for me, but I learned a lot,” O’Brien said by phone Wednesday. “I thought I played some really good hockey and I found myself taking a step forward and then getting hurt and taking a step back. I want to play more games, have fun playing hockey again, and then get back on track.”
O’Brien, 19, said he needed at least a few weeks to sort out his options before deciding whether to play in the United States Hockey League, the Canadian major junior level, or the British Columbia Hockey League. He said reports that he will play in the BCHL were erroneous, though he is still considering the league.
“Obviously I had a tough time with injuries this year, and coming straight out of high school and going to college was an adjustment,” he said. “But I think for me, taking a step back and playing more games [is important]. I’m not sure where I’m going to play next year. My agent has told me, and the same with the people in Philly, that there’s no rush. Philly was totally fine with the decision.”
O’Brien, who will take part in the Flyers’ prospects camp in June in Voorhees, said he has two weeks of classes remaining at Providence, “and then I’ll probably figure out what the best plan is.”
After playing next season, O’Brien said he will probably go to a different college — unless he is in the Canadian Hockey League.
In addition to his two injuries at Providence, O’Brien said he “got pretty sick when I was at the World Juniors. Honestly, it’s just been an unlucky year. Obviously, no one wants this to happen to them, but I haven’t really had to face too much adversity up until this point. I think it really put the fire back. Not that it wasn’t there, but after going through all these things, you realize how much you just miss playing hockey. It lit the fire for me to get that much better and get back on track.
“I’m going to go play hockey again and get bigger and stronger,” he added. “The player in me hasn’t changed. I think I’m that much more driven to go get better.”
O’Brien was, surprisingly, selected 19th overall last June after collecting 80 points in 30 games for his high school team, Thayer Academy. At the time, then-general manager Ron Hextall was asked what gave him confidence in O’Brien even though he hadn’t played against strong competition.
“He just has all the traits of a hockey player: his hockey sense, his timing of passes, when to shoot and when to pass,” Hextall said back then, adding that the Massachusetts native had a “little agitator in him” and a “really good motor.”