Jay O’Brien didn’t always have his eyes set on Boston University for his college hockey career. The 19th overall selection from the 2018 National Hockey League draft had a winding path following his graduation from Thayer Academy in 2018.
Originally recruited to play for Providence College, O’Brien’s first year playing in the NCAA took him by surprise. O’Brien found himself underprepared physically and mentally, leading him to spend the 2019-20 season with the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL). With the Vees, O’Brien put up 25 goals and 41 assists in a total of 46 games, accounting for 66 points and a 1.4 point/per game average.
“Having to manage my friends, school work, and hockey was so new to me. I learned a lot while at Providence about how to take care of yourself and how to be a successful college hockey player- something different than being a successful high school hockey player,” O’Brien said.
Even though he strayed from the typical path, O’Brien’s year in Penticton was a “blessing in disguise.” Playing junior hockey gave O’Brien a chance to mature physically and improve his game. “I think that when you play a year of junior hockey you’re just that much more ready to play college hockey physically and mentally. I think that I’m a different player now than I was a few years ago and that I’ve grown a lot on and off the ice. I think that I protect the puck much better than I did my first year, and I’ve learned different ways of how to score and defend. The biggest thing for me is feeling stronger on my feet, being really hard to knock off the puck, and still playing with the edge that I’ve always played with.”
While playing for the Vees, O’Brien served as an assistant captain. “Getting to wear a letter was something I took a lot of pride in. I could tell that a lot of the younger guys looked up to me. Penticton was one of the closest teams I’ve ever been on,” O’Brien said.
As a player, O’Brien has a lot to bring to the squad. Modeling his game after Vincent Trochek of the Carolina Hurricanes, O’Brien comments on Trochek’s versatility and his ability to play creatively. “I think we’re pretty similar in how we use our speed and try to create offense all over the ice but still play a good defensive game.”
Despite starting in Rhode Island, the incoming forward has ties to BU going beyond the recruitment process. O’Brien played in Penticton with Tristan Amonte, who has committed to play for the Terriers in the 2021-22 season, brother of redshirt Junior Ty Amonte, and son of five-time NHL All-Star and Terrier Alum, Tony Amonte. In addition to that, O’Brien played in the 2019 World Junior Championships with Logan Cockerill, future captain of the 2020-21 team.
One of the stronger connections is found in Joel Farabee, who, like O’Brien, was selected in the first round of the 2018 NHL draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. “Me and Joel are pretty close actually. A few weeks after Flyers development camp I committed to BU and asked Joel how he liked it, and he had nothing but good things to say. He’s a great hockey player and has a huge future with the Flyers; his first year with them was just a taste.”
A Massachusetts native, O’Brien knew that after his time in Providence and Penticton, he wanted to return home. “Growing up in Hingham, going to the Beanpot every year with my dad and grandfather are some of the best hockey memories that I have. I really like the school, I love the city, and I love the campus. Obviously the hockey program speaks for itself, but I really liked Coach O’Connell and what he saw me as. The biggest thing for me was that the coaching staff was going to let me be myself not only on the ice but off the ice too. They know when it’s time to get serious but there’s time to be able to have fun and joke around. I thought that the people around BU were really good hockey people.”
Waiting to hear about the upcoming season, O’Brien spends his time working out at home, fishing with the Amonte family, and trying to keep up his game. In his second time around in the NCAA, O’Brien is “looking forward to being a Terrier and helping [the team] win some games.”