Flyers prospect Jay O’Brien finds his game in the BCHL with the Vees

Philadelphia Flyers prospect Jay O’Brien is enjoying life while playing in the BCHL for the Penticton Vees.

After an injury-plagued start to the prospect’s career, O’Brien came to Penticton and led the team with 66 points in 46 games during the regular season, averaging 1.43 points per game. He is loving every minute of being in the Peach City – the community, the fans and his teammates.

Last summer, O’Brien talked about wanting to just have fun playing hockey again and how he never felt like himself at Providence College last season. Since coming to Penticton, things have changed in the span of a few months.

Former Vees forward Brett Hextall, who is from Philadelphia, advised O’Brien that for his final season of junior hockey eligibility, Penticton could be an option. It’s been good, I live with a great family, and this team is one of, if not the closest teams I’ve been a part of, (coming to the Vees) was a seamless transition,” O’Brien explained.

The Massachusetts native hasn’t struggled at all since moving to Canada, despite being close to 5,000 kilometres from home. “(In terms of) the culture, there is nothing different (between the two places). Both the States and Canada are great places for hockey.” 

O’Brien has had some injuries during his career like most athletes do, but his drive and determination to become one of the best players and overcome those injuries is top notch. Despite missing 12 games this season, O’Brien’s development in the BCHL has gone according to plan. “I love it here, the coaching staff is great, working really hard, great support, it’s been great.”

The Vees are in midst of what O’Brien hopes is a long and deep playoff run after a first round series win over the West Kelowna Warriors. The 20-year-old Boston University commit leads the league with five goals and ten points in five games of the opening round of the BCHL playoffs. Teammate Danny Weight is second to O’Brien in goals and assists.

With teammates whose fathers played in the NHL, O’Brien has relished the opportunity to ask questions of them. In fact, O’Brien credits Weight’s dad Doug, who played over 1,200 NHL games and scored more than 1,000 points. “It’s great having the chance to pick their brain,” added O’Brien. The support he has received from the city and team itself is something Flyers fans will appreciate. 

With their second pick in the first round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the Flyers selected O’Brien 19th overall. Being drafted into the NHL is already an amazing accomplishment and having your name called in the first round is something only a select few can describe.

O’Brien’s feeling that day was no different as it was a moment he will never forget, especially with his family at his side. “It was an awesome moment. I didn’t put too much expectation on it and went in with an open mind. Some of my friends went before and after me, (but) it was an awesome experience overall.” 

As for his game today, almost two years later, O’Brien feels his hockey IQ is most NHL-ready. It was one of the attributes teams and media praised before being drafted. O’Brien knows to become an NHL player,  there’s always room for improvement and it’s that determination and mindset that makes him a first-rounder. 

Next year O’Brien will attend Boston University, he’s looking forward to getting back to NCAA hockey. “(BU) has a great development program and (another former Vees player) Ty Amonte is there right now.”

O’Brien will join American all-time greats like Keith Tkachuk, Tony Amonte and current Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel who have donned the Terriers jersey. However, before O’Brien starts his university career, he and the Vees hope to cap off a stellar 2019-20 season with a Fred Page Cup as BCHL champions and a Centennial Cup as Canada’s National Junior A Champions.