June 19: Jeff Cox of the New England Hockey Journal reports that O’Brien will be heading to Boston University after his season in the BCHL. Eligible to return to the NCAA for the 2020-21 season, the Flyers first-round pick will join another powerhouse hockey program at BU.
June 6: It’s not very often you see a first-round pick leave college for anything but the professional ranks, and even rarer to see them end up in a junior league other than the CHL. That’s exactly what has happened to Philadelphia Flyers prospect Jay O’Brien, who has committed to the Penticton Vees of the BCHL after leaving Providence College earlier this year.
O’Brien was the 19th-overall pick in last June’s draft and headed to the NCAA ranks to continue his development. Through 25 games with the Providence Friars, the 19-year old forward recorded just five points and looked extremely overmatched at times. Even playing at the 2019 World Juniors, where he was competing against players his own age, O’Brien looked out of sorts and was held scoreless through seven games on the silver medal-winning Team USA.
While he won’t be competing in college or the CHL, the BCHL is still a solid development league. Many top prospects hone their skills there before heading to college, as their NCAA eligibility is maintained as opposed to if they play in the CHL. That may be exactly why O’Brien chose the BCHL, as he could potentially return to the NCAA after waiting out his year of ineligibility thanks to the transfer rules. There’s always the chance that he develops enough to earn an NHL contract as well, though expecting him to handle the AHL in 2020-21 may be a reach at this point.
The legendary Penticton program in particular has developed many NHL talents including Ryan Johansen, Troy Stecher, Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro, and has a history with names like Paul Kariya, Duncan Keith and Brett Hull.