Flyers

Why patience is key for potential 'game-breaker' Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien

Why patience is key for potential 'game-breaker' Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien

Providence hockey and the Flyers are on the same page.

Both believe in Jay O'Brien. The two see eye to eye on the shiftiness and burst, the hands that can make the puck go all sorts of ways, the innate goal-scoring ability.

It's why the Friars and Flyers plucked O'Brien out of Thayer Academy, a prep school in Braintree, Massachusetts.

It's also why they're just fine with being patient.

"I think Jay, if he continues to progress, can be a game-breaker for us," Providence head coach Nate Leaman said Monday in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "And that's what we're kind of looking for. We want him to continue to grow with the speed and the understanding of the game, but I think with his skill set and his ability, he can be a game-breaker. 

"These guys that come right from high school, it takes time and I know Philly has told us that they understand that also. So it's just for him continuing to grow."

O'Brien, an offensively gifted forward the Flyers selected 19th overall in the 2018 NHL draft, hasn't had the dream start to his collegiate career — and that's OK. He missed six games over the course of October and November because of upper-body injuries and went scoreless in his first eight contests.

Early adversity can derail a freshman season, but that's when O'Brien's background comes into play. Tony Amonte, the former Flyer and current head coach at Thayer Academy, commended O'Brien for his "grit to go along with goal scoring."

The mindset and work ethic were right on par with the skill.

The blend of those characteristics caught Leaman's attention on the recruiting trail.

First impression is that here's a guy that works and he has the skill set. That's what really drew us to him. Jay's skill set is pretty elite, but you see guys out there with real good skill sets but you don't see them work. The one thing that can make Jay special is that he competes and he works.

He's a positive kid. He's a very positive individual and I think he's having a year of learning. I think this is very healthy for everything Jay is going through. He has a great skill set, he's got very good vision, he's got very good hands around the net and in tight situations. His hands in tight situations, in tight around the net, are really elite. 

He's coming from high school hockey. Usually the normal freshman in college hockey, it takes them a good two months to really settle in and unfortunately, Jay missed some of that time with the injuries.

It's clear why Leaman was a major selling point for O'Brien choosing Providence.

"Coach Leaman is unbelievable, I think he's one of the best coaches in college hockey," O'Brien said last summer. "His compete and his want to win and his details are huge. It's a place I wanted to go as soon as I toured there."

Already, the tide is starting to turn for O'Brien, who has two goals and two assists in his last six outings following the eight-game scoreless stretch. Leaman has moved him from center to winger, with the purpose of freeing up O'Brien.

"He's been doing a good job with that," Leaman said. "He plays on the power play and he plays on one of our top lines on the wing.

"It takes time to learn to play at the speed, to play with the lack of space."

Flyers player development coach John Riley and amateur scout Nick Pryor have been at a number of Providence's games.

"I communicate with them regularly also," Leaman said, "and I know they're communicating with Jay."

They're all being patient. O'Brien is, as well. There's too much potential to not believe in the process.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Maple Leafs, Golden Knights can clinch on home ice

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Maple Leafs, Golden Knights can clinch on home ice

Four first-round playoff series remain alive.

Two of those four series could end Sunday.

Both the Maple Leafs and Golden Knights can advance to the second round if they win their respective Game 6s on home ice.

Below is the full schedule for Day 12 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs (TOR 3-2)
Game 6, Eastern Conference first round
3 p.m. ET | TV: NBC | Live stream here

San Jose Sharks at Vegas Golden Knights (VGK 3-2)
Game 6, Western Conference first round
7 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

Old acquaintances, new acquaintances and Flyers flavor as Alain Vigneault gets head start

Old acquaintances, new acquaintances and Flyers flavor as Alain Vigneault gets head start

These are chaotic times for Alain Vigneault.

Exciting, of course, but chaotic — much different than last April and throughout the 2018-19 season when he was without a job.

"After a year off and figuring out I'll never be the golfer that I thought I would be, it's time for me to get back to work," he said Thursday with a smile.

Back into the workforce in full force.

Not only does Vigneault have a new job, he's got two of them … starting at once.

He was introduced as the Flyers' new head coach Thursday. He is also the bench boss for Team Canada in the 2019 IIHF World Championship from May 10-26.

As busy as it is, coaching in the worlds will give Vigneault a head start on getting to know two of his most important players with the Flyers: Sean Couturier and Carter Hart.

Team Canada will also provide a unique situation with plenty of Flyers ties.

The tournament will serve as a job interview of sorts for Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh. The statuses of the team's assistant coaches Dillabaugh, Kris Knoblauch (power play), Ian Laperriere (penalty kill) and Rick Wilson (defensemen) appear nebulous with a new head coach in town.

Because of his time with Hart, Dillabaugh will join Team Canada.

"Right now, we have a solid, young goaltender that all I've heard about were positive things," Vigneault said of Hart and the Flyers' situation in net. "We're going to be able to work with him at the world championships. We decided [Wednesday], with Hockey Canada, to also bring a goalie coach — we're going to bring the Flyers' goalie coach to the world championships. He's worked with Hart and he's had real good progression with him."

On Thursday, near the top of Vigneault's to-do-list was to discuss the Flyers' staff with general manager Chuck Fletcher and meet the current assistant coaches. Fletcher said: "We're going to talk a little bit more today and a little bit over the next week or two. I don't think it's going to be a rush to hire or a rush to judgment here."

Couturier will be playing for his new coach and his old coach Dave Hakstol, who is on Team Canada's staff. Former Flyers general manager Ron Hextall is also a part of Team Canada's management group.

Don't expect Vigneault to seek out advice from Hakstol regarding the Flyers. That would be a tad bit awkward.

"I'm going to lean on him for the tournament but I'm not going to ask Dave or Ron Hextall anything about players with the Flyers," Vigneault said. "I've said to Chuck that I want to come here with everybody fresh, clean, no preconceived notion. Players are going to come and they're going to show me what they can do. 

"Those would be two great sources for me to ask, but I'd rather trust my eyes, talk to the guys, get to know them and get a personal feel for who they are, what they can do and what they can bring."

Players like Couturier, Hart and Claude Giroux shouldn't have a problem showing what they bring to the table. They're three of the Flyers' surest bets right now.

Giroux chatted with Vigneault on Thursday at Flyers Skate Zone.

"Everything I've heard about him is this passion to win," Vigneault said of the Flyers' captain.

As for Giroux on his new coach: "Very excited," he said via text message to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Marc Farzetta. "Heard a lot of great things."

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