Leafs organization inks one of the top college UFAs and former 1st round pick to a short-term deal

Mike Armenti
August 25, 2023  (11:14)

The Toronto Marlies have bolstered their lineup today with a pretty significant college UFA signing, inking former first round pick Jay O'Brien to a one-year AHL contract.

O'Brien, 23, was originally selected 19th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers back in 2018. Five picks earlier, the Flyers drafted Joel Farabee, who has turned out to be a solid NHLer. Farabee already has a 20-goal season in the books for his young career. Meanwhile, O'Brien played out his full 4 years in college before becoming a UFA this summer after not signing his ELC in Philly.
The Hockey Writers went into some depth on what they saw from O'Brien heading into the draft.
"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."

The signing is a low-risk one for both parties. If O'Brien can find his game in the AHL, it will open him up to be able to sign with any NHL team, should an NHL offer arise. For the Marlies, it's only a one-year deal, and there is certainly a lot of potential there. If O'Brien acquits himself well in Toronto, perhaps it could even lead to an NHL opportunity with the Leafs.
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Leafs organization inks one of the top college UFAs and former 1st round pick to a short-term deal

Do you think Jay O'Brien will ever play NHL games?

Yes, still young can get there8862.4 %
No, he's officially a bust1510.6 %
Career Minor Leaguer3827 %
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