The Anaheim Ducks have a lot of thriving prospects in their system. One of those prospects is defenseman Andrew O’Brien who is in the second-year of his NHL Entry Level Contract and is currently assigned to their American League affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals.
The 22-year-old spent some time with THW’s Ted Warren after a recent overtime loss where he answered questions ranging from his childhood playing days to being drafted in the fourth-round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
THW: What can you tell readers about how you discovered hockey back home in Hamilton, Ontario?
A.O.: Growing up in Canada everyone is playing hockey. I just started playing when I was younger with a bunch of friends and my Dad got me into it, playing on ponds and local rinks.
THW: What age did you first lace up the skates?
A.O.: I would probably say about three. Back home a lot of guys start young. I started playing organized hockey at five or six.
THW: How did your time in the “Q” help you develop?
A.O.: That was an incredible learning experience playing in Quebec and playing in a French environment. I thought I grew a lot as a player. I learned a lot about my game and I had a lot of great coaches that helped me out. I moved from forward to D in that league. I had Andre Tourigny who is a Coach with the Avalanche now who helped me out a lot.
THW: For you, what is the biggest difference between Pros and Juniors?
A.O.: A lot of guys say speed and size, but I’m used to that. I feel comfortable skating with my size. It’s not that big of a thing. The plays are a lot quicker. One thing I do like is that guys are in position and it makes it a little easier for you, but it’s a lot faster. You have guys you are from the NHL that are here.
THW: What’s the biggest off ice adjustment?
A.O: Living on your own, but I enjoy it and probably just the maturity of the guys who are here. You have guys with families and maturity that’s the biggest thing.
THW: You spent some time in the ECHL last year with the Utah Grizzlies, how did that help your development as a pro?
A.O: I was injured last year. I went to Utah and I enjoyed it. I think I got 20 or 30 games under my belt my first year pro so I enjoyed that. It was a nice learning experience.
O’Brien Sticking up For A Teammate in Juniors
THW: Now that you’re in your second-year pro are things getting easier out on the ice for you?
A.O: Not necessarily easier, but I’m learning every game and I’m finding my way. I’m just trying to string a couple games together and start playing with a lot more consistency. That’s the biggest thing.
THW: Even though it’s your second season, what are you still learning about the pro life?
A.O.: Handling yourself off the ice and on the ice. I’m still watching the older guys. Guys like Brendan Bell and Nightingale who have been in the league for quite awhile and have played some NHL games.
THW: When you have questions after a game, do you go up to Bell or any of the older guys?
A.O.: Yes, absolutely. They’re always there for you. They make that pretty clear. The coaches are there for you too. You got “Marty”, “Skalds” and “Villy” who are willing to help us out one hundred percent.
THW: Taking you back to Draft Day 2012. What do you remember about your draft day?
A.O.: It definitely was an exciting day. I was there with some friends and my Dad. I didn’t know what to expect being from Toronto. Pittsburgh wasn’t too far so I didn’t have any high expectations, but I ended up going in the fourth round which was an incredible experience.
THW: You were considered a late bloomer, have you always had that late blooming mentality?
A.O.: Yes, definitely. I was a smaller guy growing up and playing hockey. My Dad’s a big guy and I was just waiting for my growth spurt and it eventually came.