Jay O’Brien – 2018 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

Jay O’Brien

2017-18 Team: Thayer Academy (#9)
Date of Birth: November 4, 1999
Place of Birth: Hingham, MA
Ht: 6’0” Wt: 174 lbs
Shoots: Right
Position: C
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2018 first-year eligible


When it comes to the All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo, the vast majority of invitees come from either the USHL or the United States program in Michigan. To get an invite as a high school prep star says something significant about that player and what potential he has. Thayer Academy’s Jay O’Brien certainly fits the mold of good potential at the next level.

Widely considered the best high school player in this draft, O’Brien got an invite to Buffalo and was only one of two New England prep players to get the honor. To go from playing on the prep ice to the ice at Key Bank Center is a dramatic change and one very welcomed by O’Brien. It showed the hard work he put in was paying off.

RELATED: THW’s 2018 Draft Guide

Thayer has produced some good talent of late. Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle went there along with both Brian Gibbons and Northeastern’s Adam Gaudette. O’Brien might have more upside than these three. He was by far their leading scorer this season. In just 30 games, he produced 43 goals and 80 points. He was easy to spot on the ice during games. The fast one was O’Brien. In terms of who his coach was, you might recognize the name. Former Ranger and Blackhawk great Tony Amonte runs the bench at Thayer. That’s pretty good company to learn from.

Jay O'Brien of the U.S. National Development Program
Jay O’Brien got to play for Tony Amonte at Thayer Academy. (courtesy USHL)

So what do we have in O’Brien? As mentioned above, we have someone who can skate. He demonstrates both good acceleration and speed and uses it to create space and scoring chances. He can finish as demonstrated by his 43 goals. He also has really good hands. Whether he’s unleashing a shot or making a subtle extra move to create a shooting lane, he can do that at top speed and create havoc for opponents.

The obvious question that comes up with O’Brien is the level of competition he played against. We got a small glimpse of that at both the prospect’s game and when he played for the USDP. He played a game against Michigan State where although he didn’t score, he made some noticeable plays. He didn’t look out of place against more experienced competition. The thing I’d like to see is continued improvement on the defensive end. He has improved there and shown flashes. I just want to see him do it against men. He’ll get his chance to do that as his next stop is Providence to play for the Friars in 2018-19.

Other THW Draft Profiles:

Jay O’Brien – NHL Draft Projection

O’Brien is comfortably a second rounder for me. He’s clearly a notch below the top-end guys, but has good upside for the next level. A center who is a right-shot that has speed will be highly coveted. He’s somebody that I could see teams trade up for if he starts slipping down too far. On my personal list, he is 44th overall.


“As the game (The All-American Prospects Game) went on, O’Brien got more impressive. Even though he has mostly played in the New England prep ranks, he did not look intimidated by the more experienced competition. Speedy and highly skilled, the Providence College commit went top-shelf for a goal and looked good on faceoffs.” –Ryan Kennedy/The Hockey News

“They (O’Brien & Jordan Harris) are each two of the top U.S. high school players and they have many similarities as prospects. They are both excellent skaters, have very good puck skills, are competitive and leaders on their respective teams.” –Dan Marr/NHL Central Scouting

“The top high school player in the U.S. displays a mix of grit, speed and determination.” –The Sporting News


  • Good skater
  • Great puck handler
  • Can play physical game

Under Construction (Improvements to Make)

  • Play against more experienced competition
  • Overall defense

NHL Potential

O’Brien has the tools to carve out a role in the middle six at the next level. He’s a bit of a longer-term project given that he’s just finishing up high school. With proper development, he could become one of the best early day-two picks.

Risk-Reward Analysis

Risk – 3.5/5, Reward – 3.5/5

Fantasy Hockey Potential

Offence – 7/10, Defence – 6/10


O’Brien was named the USHS All-USA Hockey Player of the Year in 2017-18.

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