Flyers

By drafting Jay O'Brien, Ron Hextall shows he's 'never been one to be safe'

By drafting Jay O'Brien, Ron Hextall shows he's 'never been one to be safe'

DALLAS — Having already selected a forward at No. 14, many believed Ron Hextall would utilize the 19th overall pick for a defenseman to solidify the Flyers' first round at both positions.

Instead, Hextall took a chance and decided that the safe pick was not the way to go.

“I’ve never been one to be safe. I don’t think it’s a good philosophy,” Hextall said after the Flyers drafted Jay O'Brien 19th overall (see story). “I don’t think you can be successful that way.” 

To the surprise of many, O’Brien was the Flyers' next guy up on the list, a center from Thayer Academy in Braintree, Massachusetts, that many scouting experts had ranked outside the top 30. The Hockey News even had O’Brien listed at No. 61 and there was little expectation he would go off the board in the first round. 

So did Hextall reach too high for a player that may have been available in the second round?

“There is risk when you take a kid out of that level,” Hextall said. “If you want to say there’s a concern, he has not played at a high level. So people call that a risky pick because he hasn’t played at a high level. Quite honestly, it’s a tough evaluation no doubt about it, but I feel confident in our scouts. They do a great job and we felt very strong about it.”

Having expressed a desire to add another highly-rated defenseman, Hextall chose to pass up on USNTDP defenseman K’Andre Miller, who the Rangers traded up to No. 22 to pick, and Mattias Samuelsson, the son of Kjell Samuelsson, who was not chosen in the first round.

O’Brien’s numbers from his senior season at Thayer Academy jump off the page, scoring 43 goals and 80 points in just 30 games, but again, the level of competition has to be taken into consideration.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” O’Brien said. “I play the same everywhere I go. I think after playing with the U.S. team and some USHL games and some college games, that’s why I got picked where I got picked. Not just because I played prep school and I know it’s hard for teams to compare and contrast to the OHL to the Q to the USHL. It’s tough.”

O’Brien, who’s committed to play at Providence College next season, had a strong feeling about the Flyers, who spent more time scouting him than other NHL teams.

“I had a great, great meeting with Philly and it was the place I wanted to go,” O’Brien said. “It was a place I wanted to play, such a storied franchise and I couldn’t be happier.” 

Perhaps the Flyers' GM felt he could take a risk having already selected Joel Farabee five picks earlier (see story), but under Hextall’s direction, there’s a trust factor within the scouting department and the pre-draft rankings, and the Flyers clearly didn’t want to deviate from that.  

“He just has the traits of a hockey player,” Hextall said of O’Brien. “Just his timing of passes, when to shoot, when to pass. He’s a really smart hockey player. He’s competitive. He’s strong. He’s got a little agitator in him. He’s a really good hockey player.”

Right now, there are 31 NHL GMs who love their picks. 

Give it four or five more years and we’ll see if that love affair has rubbed off.

More on the Flyers

• With Philly ties, Farabee can't wait to help Flyers

• Flyers need to find needle in haystack on Day 2

• Was Couturier snubbed for Selke Trophy?

• Giroux's final Hart Trophy voting should hurt

Flyers Talk podcast: Analyzing scenarios for Stanley Cup Playoffs

Flyers Talk podcast: Analyzing scenarios for Stanley Cup Playoffs

On the latest Flyers Talk podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall are joined by Joe Fordyce, the Flyers Pre and Postgame Live producer.

From multiple interviews to the format of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, let's dive in:

1:25 — Kevin Hayes talks all things Flyers and the NHL stoppage

7:30 — No fans during the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

14:50 — An interview with Rick Tocchet and Keith Jones

18:00 — Should the NHL change the playoff format?

24:00 — Life without Flyers hockey right now

30:30 — Debating our all-time Flyers team

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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Gritty all over the place, funny Penguins moments as Flyers roll their rival in NHL 20

Gritty all over the place, funny Penguins moments as Flyers roll their rival in NHL 20

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, which has suspended the 2019-20 NHL season, the Flyers did not get a chance to beat the Penguins last Sunday in Philadelphia.

They did, however, dominate them on NHL 20 Thursday night as NBC Sports Philadelphia aired a simulation with the great trio of Jim Jackson, Keith Jones and Taryn Hatcher on the call.

The Flyers never trailed in beating Pittsburgh, 6-4, at the Wells Fargo Center.

Michael Raffl led the way with a pair of first-period goals. Kevin Hayes (one goal, one assist), James van Riemsdyk (one goal, one assist), Matt Niskanen (two assists), Travis Sanheim (two assists) and Nate Thompson (two assists) all had multi-point games.

Oh, and Gritty enjoyed the win. So did Claude Giroux.


Raffl's goals were massive in setting the tone during the opening 20 minutes. Despite allowing four markers, Carter Hart made a ton of timely saves, especially in the first period.

On Raffl's first goal, Penguins forward Conor Sheary got stuck right in the middle of the Flyers' celebration. Poor guy.

On Raffl's second goal, Penguins forward Evan Rodrigues tripped right over his goalie Matt Murray as the Flyers were celebrating.


A big storyline in the Flyers' win was Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin being held to no goals.

As you can see, there were some daring Penguins fans in attendance. We have a strong feeling they were welcomed kindly by Flyers fans.

Just like in real life, the Flyers were very defensive of the 21-year-old Hart. Get close to the kid, you've got problems.


Tyler Pitlick added clutch secondary scoring during the second period to give the Flyers a 3-1 edge.

Gritty, with the neck of an owl, enjoyed his view in the middle stanza.

"He's always got a good spot," Jackson said.

"He's usually got some popcorn to dump on a Penguins fan's head," Jones said.

Unfortunately, that did not happen (let's be real, it probably did).

Justin Braun, Hayes and van Riemsdyk (empty-netter) tallied goals in the final stanza to seal the Flyers' win. 

The Penguins' goals came from Brandon Tanev, Patric Hornqvist, Teddy Blueger and Marcus Pettersson.

That's not going to do it against this 2019-20 Flyers team, which has dominated in Philadelphia.

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers