Jay O'Brien

Future Flyers Report: A closer look at the current Phantoms, NCAA and beyond

Future Flyers Report: A closer look at the current Phantoms, NCAA and beyond

It's that time again — our weekly Future Flyers Report has arrived checking in on the Phantoms, NCAA and beyond!

A look into the Valley

• It took 17 games since making the transition from the Hamilton Bulldogs to Lehigh Valley Phantoms, but Matthew Strome finally scored his first professional goal with the Phantoms on Nov. 29.

• That same night, Carsen Twarynski — after going three games without a point since being sent back down from the Flyers — had himself a three-point night (two goals, one assist), all coming in the second period within a 12-minute span.

Isaac Ratcliffe had his second two-point week of the season, registering a goal and an assist. Before his assist on Nov. 27, he went seven games without a point. He now has five points on the year.

• Mikhail Vorobyev is like a switch — he's on when he's with the Phantoms and off when he's up with the Flyers. It's possible he used up his last chance with the big club after underperforming time and time again, but he still finds success in Lehigh. Who knows, anything's possible. Vorobyev had two assists this past week, which brings him to nine on the season.

• I figured it’d also be fun to note that even though Morgan Frost has been up with the Flyers since Nov. 18, he’s still tied for fourth in points with the Phantoms on the season.

• There were a lot of expectations for Nicolas Aube-Kubel heading into the season. With new faces in the organization, he had the opportunity to come out hot and prove himself ... but he's fallen short early on. While he did tack on an assist Nov. 29, he finds himself with only seven points in 22 games.

• And while this isn’t a note on a prospect, Saturday’s win brought head coach Scott Gordon to 375 career wins, moving into eighth place for wins by a coach in AHL history!

The college kids are kicking it up a notch

• Still trying to decide what was better this weekend — Cam York’s power play goal or his celly afterwards. Even though he did score, Michigan wound up falling short on Nov. 30 in a loss to Wisconsin.

• Now, switching gears from York and Michigan’s loss, prospect Wyatt Kalynuk wound up scoring the tying goal late in the second period. He now has three goals on the season.

• Ohio State had a successful two-game sweep against Michigan State this weekend. On the back end of the weekend, Tanner Laczynski scored in the first period to give his team the lead. Zero hesitation and puck placement make this one heck of a goal.

• Bobby Brink and the Denver Pioneers had the weekend off but hopefully that won’t hinder the fact that he’s starting to heat up. After going five games without a point, he registered four last weekend (two goals, two assists) in two games. Let’s hope he can keep that rolling when he and the Pioneers face Arizona State in a few days.

A little deeper into the pipeline

• Egor Zamula cooled off a bit this weekend after having five points in the previous. Still, he tallied two points, both assists in Calgary’s 4-1 win on Nov. 29. Not only are the Hitmen dominating their division, Zamula ranks second among all defensemen in assists with 19 and fifth overall in plus-minus.

• Week after week Jay O’Brien continues to impress in the BCHL. With a two-assist night Nov. 30, O’Brien ranks second in the league in points with 45. He and the Penticton Vees going 2-1 on the week, they now have 47 points on the season and are sitting comfortably at the top of the Interior division by five points.

• Everett’s Wyatte Wylie had a rare weekend in which he didn’t register a single point. This is only the second time this season in which he has gone two games in a row without getting on the board.

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Future Flyers Report: Egor Zamula continues to make a name for himself, Jay O'Brien dominating the BCHL

Future Flyers Report: Egor Zamula continues to make a name for himself, Jay O'Brien dominating the BCHL

Another week of hockey has come and gone, so it's time for another check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

• Things were quiet for defenseman Egor Zamula last week, but he made sure to turn up the volume heading into the next one. 

Zamula added another two goals, giving him an impressive 17 points on the season. He ranks second in points with the Calgary Hitmen and first in assists with 11.

It is also worth noting that Zamula is first among defensemen in plus-minus with a plus-18. This also puts him as fourth-best in the league.

This is a pretty impressive and rather rare sight to see a player who went undrafted find so much success. The Flyers have lucked out in recent years with finding two undrafted defensemen that have quickly made names for themselves — Zamula being one and Philippe Myers the other. If his upside is as great as it's projected to be, talk about another steal and even more depth at the blue line.

Jay O'Brien continues to flourish in the BCHL. In three games with the Penticton Vees this past week, O'Brien tallied six points (three goals, three assists).

In addition to that, he also extended his point streak to eight games. He now has 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists) through 23 games. Only two other players in the league — Kent Johnson and Michael Colella, who both play for the Trail Smoke Eaters — have more points.

The Vees also announced on Nov. 7 that O'Brien was their first ever player of the month for the month of October.


Quick hits

• It was another weekend of racking up points for Morgan Frost. He had a two-assist night on Saturday and also scored his fifth goal of the season on Sunday. He now has 12 points in 13 games.

It's also important to note the assist on Frost's goal came from Maksim Sushko. It was Sushko's only point of the weekend, but a beauty at that.

Alex Lyon had a solid performance Saturday night when the Phantoms won in overtime against the Hershey Bears, only letting in two goals. Through six games played this season, he is 3-1-2 with a 2.10 GAA and .920 save percentage.

Noah Cates had a pair of goals in as many games this weekend with the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. That gives him four goals thus far in eight games. Funny enough, he and his brother Jackson Cates are tied in first for goals on the team.

• Shifting gears to Western Michigan, Ronnie Attard scored the game-winning goal on Nov. 8. In that game, Wade Allison also tallied an assist. That was Allison's first point since Oct. 12.

Wyatt Wylie had a successful weekend on the road with Everett, collecting three points (one goal, two assists) in a two-game span. He now leads the WHL in power play assists with 10. Wyatt and the Silvertips won both games and they currently lead the U.S. Division with a 13-4-0-0 record.

Felix Sandstrom did not dress for either game this weekend for the Reading Royals. Through six games, he has a .890 save percentage and 2.80 GAA.

Down at defense

• This past Wednesday, while on a conditioning stint with the Phantoms, Samuel Morin suffered a torn ACL in his right knee for the second time in 19 months. He will miss the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

• It's still unknown how long Mark Friedman will be out for the Phantoms after he left Saturday's game in the first period. He was injured directly following a collision against the boards and needed assistance off the ice. The Phantoms also recalled defenseman James De Haas from Reading, which could imply Friedman's injury may keep him out for a significant amount of time.

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What Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien 'can't wait to prove' has him charging ahead

What Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien 'can't wait to prove' has him charging ahead

Jay O'Brien sat at his locker stall and talked about adversity.

He is only 19 years old and growing up faster than he anticipated.

He wasn't gushing over highlights from his freshman year or discussing a burgeoning career at Providence. He went from scoring 43 goals and 80 points in high school during 2017-18 to just two goals and five points at the Division I level last season.

His plans have changed and so has his hockey career.

"Stepping in from high school into the college level, it's a challenge," Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said in June. "It's not easy. It doesn't matter how good you are. I think he learned that. It's probably the first time in his career that he went through any adversity at any level. Obviously, he's not happy."

O'Brien is not happy but he's doing something about it. In a way, he's becoming a pro without actually being one just yet. "Adversity" is said often in sports but it's real and O'Brien is facing it as a teenager.

He's starting to embrace it.

"Work on learning from this and how to battle adversity," O'Brien said in June at Flyers development camp. "I think that's one of the biggest things in life is how you come back from adversity and I can't wait to prove that."

One of the Flyers' two first-round picks from 2018, O'Brien is no longer at Providence, the school in which he committed to when he was 15 years old. With the Friars, he had setbacks because of upper-body injuries and then never found his scoring touch. O'Brien and his camp decided it was best for the prospect to join the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, a junior A league, in 2019-20.

I'm happy this adversity is happening right now and not too later in my career. You never want a year like that, but in a way, it was helpful for me to light the fire even more. 


(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

O'Brien is a nifty playmaker with innate scoring ability. Two of his former coaches — Nate Leaman at Providence and Tony Amonte at Thayer Academy — raved about his skill set. Leaman called O'Brien's hands elite, while Amonte extolled the center's knack for creating and finishing — all reasons why the Flyers' previous regime drafted him 19th overall.

Why didn't those traits translate with the Friars? Injuries played a factor, but O'Brien's size did, too. He's now 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, and still adding muscle, which can improve more than simply being strong on the puck — it can enhance O'Brien's quickness and speed, as well.

"I've gained 13 pounds of weight since the season ended," O'Brien said. "I've put the pedal to the metal and I've been really trying to improve my game.

"Just keep getting stronger off the ice because I learned being an 18-year-old in college, you're playing against 24-year-olds and guys like that. If I want to take my game to the next level, I've got to work even harder off ice — get back to training right, eating right, little things like that that make you a pro and to have success."


(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

During this transitional phase, O'Brien has had plenty of people in his corner. From a hockey standpoint, the former Flyer Amonte and agent Matt Keator offer daily support.

"Tony was just saying how it happens to everyone, it's just a bump in the road and it's how you rebound from it," O'Brien said. "My agent, too, was great throughout the whole thing."

But O'Brien also looked within — the year molded him.

"I kind of relied on myself more than anything," he said. "Just try to get mentally stronger."

While O'Brien is vowing to be a different player strength-wise, the ultimate goal is to rediscover his goal-scoring swagger in the BCHL.

"I'm just going to try to get back to the way I was playing, why Philly drafted me," O'Brien said. "Use my speed and my skill and create plays over the ice. Be more creative — I think that was great about Tony, he let me play and be creative and use my skill set, but he harped on the D-zone and things like that. 

"I've always taken pride in playing hard in the D-zone and playing a 200-foot game, I think that's something I've done my whole life. Just continue to play a 200-foot game, use my speed. I think I've got to shoot the puck more. Your chances are limited as you climb the ranks, so maybe be a little more selfish, shoot more and capitalize on opportunities."

The plan is for O'Brien to return to college in 2020-21 and play for Boston University after a season with Penticton. Flyers prospect Joel Farabee, who was drafted five spots ahead of O'Brien, took off with the Terriers in 2018-19, winning national Rookie of the Year and eventually signing his entry-level contract in March.

"I've talked to Joel, we've gotten really close over the last couple of years," O'Brien said. "He had nothing but great things to say, I know a lot of guys at B.U. I went in a couple of times, you want to make sure you're making the right decision this time, right? You don't want to mess around with it, you want to do your due diligence. Talking to guys like Joel and other draft picks that they have, they had nothing but good things to say about it."

O'Brien is from Hingham, Massachusetts, which is right outside of Boston. He is good friends with Amonte's son Ty Amonte, who is a junior on the Terriers and also played for Penticton. On top of that, the play-with-pace O'Brien loved the stylistic fit under head coach Albie O'Connell.

"I wanted to be in Boston, I'm 30 minutes away from Boston — that's a dream, to play for a Boston school," O'Brien said. "I just know so many guys there and they love it, they love the way they play, how Albie lets them play, but they take care of the D-zone. I couldn't be more excited."


(Christina Daly/NBC Sports Philadelphia)

The Flyers believe in O'Brien and have no problem exercising patience with the teenage prospect. General manager Chuck Fletcher and Flahr didn't draft O'Brien, but the Thayer Academy product made believers out of the Flyers' scouting staff.

"He's always been a competitor," Flahr said. "He's got quick hands, he can really shoot it. His skating is going to be good. … In order for him to play against bigger bodies in the NHL, he's going to have to be quick. That's going to be a work in progress.

"He has been training with a group in Boston and from what I saw from the beginning of the year to now, he's made significant strides strength-wise.

"He's a lot more confident, stronger and ready to go."

The adversity has helped.

"I don't think there's any doubt in my mind, I know what I can do, I know why Philly drafted me — they drafted me for a reason, especially in that spot," he said. "Talking to them, there's a little bump in the road — that's life, that's hockey. I'm just happy, I'm looking forward, I'm pumped for next year. 

"Continue to work on my game and go into next season charging."

A different player, taking a different path — and equipped for any roadblocks along the way.

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