Binghamton Player Profile: Jim O’Brien

This is the fourth profile on prospects expected to play for the Binghamton Senators.

Jim O’Brien, C/RW, Contract: 0.816,666/12 (RFA)
1-29 2007 (Murray), 6’2, Shoots R, YOB 1989, Maplewood, MN
2008-09 WHL 63-27-35-62 55pim (1 fight)
2009-10 AHL 76-8-9-17 49pim (1 fight)
2010-11 AHL 74-24-32-56 67pim (2 fights)

Jim O’Brien was Bryan Murray’s first ever draft pick for the Ottawa Senators, although he became GM just prior to the draft and there’s no doubt that John Muckler’s draft philosophy guided the selection.  The 2007 draft was considered weak (mckeenshockey.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=604850,) without much depth and many have been critical of O’Brien‘s selection.  Ranked 25th by Central Scouting and 38th by ISS, O’Brien was a graduate of the U.S. National Development Program.  He had just completed his first year at the University of Minnesota, where as a rookie he’d put up decent numbers (43-7-8-15) on a team featuring Kyle Okposo and Erik Johnson.  Coach Don Lucia said “I think for Jimmy, it’s more of where he is going to get to when he fills out. He’s 6’2 and will be 200-210 when he really fills out. That’s when he’ll become the complete player and that’s two or three years down the line. You project players and where they are today, but it’s even more important where they can get to. I think Jimmy has got a pretty good top end. He’s going to get stronger in the weight room; it’s just a matter of time. He’s dedicated to that and puts in the time. He has to work on his lower body/leg strength, which will make him a better skater also. Jimmy is the consummate team player and he has high expectations for himself. He has good skills. He can score, make plays and pass the puck. I think his competitiveness is one of his strengths. He wants to get better and he’s willing to work to get better. He’s very committed and he’s going to get there with his dedication, commitment and work ethic” (www.hockeysfuture.com/articles/9451/2007_prospects_jim_obrien/).

After the draft O’Brien left the NCAA and joined Seattle in the WHL where he enjoyed a solid rookie season.  Improving on his production the following year, he was selected as a member of Team USA in the WJC and played well.  Although O’Brien was never a dominant player in the WHL, he was expected to do well when he joined Binghamton for the 2009-10 season (http://senators.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=480916).

O’Brien quickly found himself in coach Don Nachbaur’s dog house.  Although he was rarely scratched, he received little ice time and the year was considered a complete failure.  When the season was over the organisation told O’Brien that he was in danger of no longer being considered a prospect.  To O’Brien‘s credit, he took the criticism to heart and worked hard over the summer (www.ottawasun.com/sports/hockey/2011/01/ 02/16735431.html).  About his rookie year he said “Last year was definitely a learning experience for me. Strength-wise, I  don’t think I was there. But I learned a lot during the year and I got  better as I went along. I went home this summer and off the ice, I worked  harder than I ever have before. I came into camp and came into the year  feeling great … It definitely went a lot better than last year. I felt good out there and it was definitely a good feeling coming out of camp.

This past season in Binghamton O’Brien spent much of the year playing with Erik Condra and he enjoyed great success.  He was called up on four separate occasions to the Senators and acquitted himself well (http://senators.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=547957) although he could not earn a permanent call-up like his linemate. Ultimately, O’Brien finished second in scoring behind Corey Locke.  While he struggled in the playoffs (finishing 11th in scoring), it did not diminish the fact that he’d pulled himself off the prospect scrapheap.  The Ottawa Sun (the article isn’t signed) speculated that O’Brien would have a shot in the upcoming season’s camp (www.ottawasun.com/ sports/hockey/2011/01/25/ 17024581.html), a sentiment I do not share.

Assuming O’Brien puts the same effort in training this summer as he did last year, he should have a good year in Binghamton.  He’ll receive top-six ice time and assuming he stays healthy his production will increase (60-65 points is a reasonable expectation).  His future as a NHL prospect is clearer now–that of a bottom-six, depth player–although it remains to be seen if that will be achieved as a Senator.

His Hockey Futures profile (the analysis is pre-draft): www.hockeysfuture.com/ prospects/jim_obrien
O’Brien fights Michael Vernace: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmvbnXEq-Cg
O’Brien interviewed in the fall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNSqPOAohmY

David Dziurzynski is next.

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