New Jersey Devils Roster: Jim O’Brien New Player Profile


Since being hired as general manager, Ray Shero has promised a new team in 2015-16. He made this apparent at the NHL Draft and in free agency. New players may enter the lineup that we, as Devils fans, have never seen for more than a few shifts. That is why I want to look at Jim O’Brien in this second installment and ponder what he could offer to New Jersey.

O’Brien was born in Maplewood, Minnesota. He grew up playing defense, but switched to center when he started high school. In conjunction with his high school play was his two-year stint on the United States National Under-18 Team, where he was coached by Devils head coach John Hynes. His success led him to college hockey at just 17-years old.

While playing for the University of Minnesota in 2007, O’Brien had trouble sticking out on a stacked Gophers squad, amassing just 15 points in 43 games. The team’s success led to O’Brien surprising analysts and being selected 29th overall to the Ottawa Senators. As then-general manager Bryan Murray had to say, “size matters.”

O’Brien moved to the WHL and played for the Seattle Thunderbirds from 2007 until 2009, where he enjoyed moderate success for a power-forward. Even after working through high-school, USNTDP, college, and the WHL, O’Brien still couldn’t make it to the NHL, instead joining the Birmingham Senators of the AHL.

At 21-years old, O’Brien struggled in his AHL rookie season but rebounded well the following season, with 24 goals and 56 points in 74 games. O’Brien finally earned significant NHL time (to the tune of 28 games) but could not impress enough. In the next two seasons, O’Brien underwhelmed at both the NHL and AHL levels, where he could not reach his early career-highs. He was not tendered in 2014 and went straight to unrestricted free agency. O’Brien went unsigned.

Left without a significant option in the US, O’Brien headed to Russia where he skated for Novokutzntesk Metallurg of the KHL, totaling two goals and 12 points in 22 games. The American-born forward did enough to impress in his short stay, earning himself another opportunity in the AHL, this time with the Washington Capitals’ affiliate, the Hershey Bears.

While with Hershey, O’Brien scored 10 goals and 29 points in 32 games. Although it looked like he was turning it around in the AHL, O’Brien still made it to unrestricted free agency, where the New Jersey Devils won his services on a one-year, two-way contract worth $575,000.

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  • So, where does O’Brien fit in the lineup? Even though he mostly played center, O’Brien never fared well in the faceoff circle. His two-way abilities have merited extra ice-time even when his offensive abilities is not at NHL level. Perhaps a right wing spot would be most appropriate for a right-handed shooter like O’Brien. Nothing in the American forward’s career deems him worthy to play top-nine minutes, which means that the fourth line would be his best in the lineup.

    Keep in mind, too, that O’Brien is not guaranteed a roster spot, meaning he will have to beat out the competition in preseason. Waivers should not be a problem for O’Brien meaning that he could be a great depth player that can move from Albany to New Jersey in a pinch. With so many Albany forwards gone, including Cam Janssen, Tim Sestito, and Joe Whitney, there is space for a veteran like O’Brien to step in and help the new young guns transition to the AHL. As he has proven over the years, O’Brien is not likely to steal significant minutes, but perhaps reuniting with his former USNTDP coach could revitalize the former Gopher’s career.

    What do you think about O’Brien? Will he make it to the NHL? Does he deserve NHL minutes or is he best suited for the AHL? Leave me a comment with your opinion. Thanks for reading!

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