Coyotes 2022 Offseason Player Reviews: Liam O’Brien

In this week’s edition of the Arizona Coyotes 2022 offseason player reviews, I take a look at forward Liam O’Brien, also known as “Big Tuna.” After stints with the Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche, along with spending the majority of his career in the American Hockey League (AHL), the Coyotes offered the career depth forward a one-year contract. Since arriving in the desert, the Canadian forward has kept up his reputation as a physical and dominant bottom-line player.

Liam O'Brien Arizona Coyotes
Liam O’Brien, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

After totaling three points in 39 games this past season with Arizona, along with an additional whopping 106 penalty minutes and with a potential lack of free agency interest for the Coyotes this offseason, the team rewarded him with a two-year contract extension this season to help fill in roster spots for 2022-23.

O’Brien’s Season in Review

Simply put, this past season for O’Brien wasn’t anything to be amazed by, especially considering there wasn’t anything to expect. Being placed on the team’s COVID-19 protocol list, sitting as a healthy scratch, as well as dealing with injuries, including one that almost saw him miss the last quarter of the season, limited the Coyotes forward to just 39 games.

Related: Coyotes 2022 Offseason Player Reviews: Travis Boyd

Having already cemented his place in the NHL as a fourth-line depth player, O’Brien didn’t come into the season with much expectations other than to be a physical presence, help provide a spark when needed and be a veteran voice and leader in the locker room. While he didn’t play a part on the score sheet, he still proved valuable at points this season, showing why the Coyotes gave him a contract extension.

What O’Brien Can Improve On, Build off Of

Having already earned a contract extension for the next two seasons, O’Brien needs to stay focused on being more disciplined after 106 penalty minutes this past season, along with his leadership skills, as the team will look to him to mentor their younger core. He will need to work on his decision-making and careless penalty taking if he wants to see more consistent playing time this upcoming season. Where he lacks in scoring and playmaking, his toughness and competitiveness remain.

Liam O'Brien Arizona Coyotes
Liam O’Brien, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Competitiveness and physicality are two things that O’Brien possesses and excels in best, and while that might not mean much on the scoresheet, it certainly doesn’t go unnoticed. He possesses a high level of toughness, one that has caught the attention of management and coaching. He can change the atmosphere in a game with a single hit or fight.

O’Brien’s Next Moves

This summer is a different one for O’Brien. The organization sees him as a veteran presence and a solid bottom-six forward, and he sees something special in Arizona as well. “They’re building a culture — a strong culture — to win as many games as possible,” O’Brien said. “We’re coming together, and I think it’s the beginning of something special,” calling the team a special, close-knit group (from, ’Coyotes’ Liam O’Brien sees ‘something special’, The Glendale Star, 2/27/22). It’s no question he views The Valley as home, and he and management hope to see the team’s rebuild improve.

While the Coyotes still have a ways to go in terms of stable success, they are slowly growing and building a hopefully exciting future in the desert that’s only going to improve with time. That exciting future begins through veteran mentorship from the likes of O’Brien and others. While he may not contribute like some other players, he still brings something to a Coyotes team that lacks star talent. He has areas to work on, but don’t be surprised if he underperforms again next season.

But the Coyotes are confident in O’Brien’s leadership abilities. Those abilities will be put to the test this upcoming season as he comes into 2022-23 as the big man on campus.

What do you think of O’Brien? Lets us know in the comments section below. Next week is Anton Stralman.

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