DALLAS – Happiness is being projected No. 61 by a national publication and then getting selected 19th overall in the NHL Entry Draft.
Such was the case with Jay O’Brien, who evoked a lot of “Who?’’ remarks in the audience at American Airlines Center on Friday night when he was taken “slightly’’ higher than expected by the Flyers.
But Flyers general manager Ron Hextall liked the reports he got from his scouts on the future Providence College player and rolled the dice.
When your development system is ranked second in the NHL, people believe in your judgment.
“Philly’s the place I wanted to go, Philly’s the place I wanted to play,’’ O’Brien said. “It’s such a storied franchise, I couldn’t be happier to be a Flyer. It’s such an unbelievable feeling to share with my family.’’
The Hockey News had O’Brien slotted somewhere in the second round, so even O’Brien was surprised when his name was called.
But he wasn’t surprised it was the Flyers. They had shown interest in him from a ways back.
“I think so,’’ O’Brien said. “They showed it in the interview room, they showed it today. I think this is a great stepping stone for me. Now it’s what I make of it. I going to make it a good run and play for Philly someday.’’
Taking a chance on O’Brien is nothing new for Hextall, who said he “never has been one to play it safe.’’
That said, he added: “He’s a really smart player. Really good hockey sense. Competitive, strong, he’s got a little agitator in him. Really good shot, sees the ice well.’’
Did Hextall’s strong development system allow him to take a chance on someone like O’Brien?
“If we believe in something, we do it,’’ Hextall said. “We believed in picking Jay O’Brien higher than most people. We feel good about it. We are excited about him.’’
What Farabee and O’Brien lack in size, they make up for with other positive traits.
“When we look at the first round, we want guys with hockey sense, w also want character,’’ Hextall said. “If you don’t draft them in the first round, it’s hard to find them.
“Philosophically, that’s the way we approach things.’’
The Flyers were hoping to get their hands on a right-shot defenseman but Noah Dobson and Evan Bouchard were gone before the Flyers got a chance.
“There were a couple kids where we thought, ‘Gee, could they fall to us?’ But they didn’t,’’ Hextall said. “We didn’t expect them to. We’re certainly happy with the guys we got.’’
That said, look for Hextall to take a defenseman on Saturday in the second round.
“We’ll look at defense,’’ Hextall said. “It doesn’t mean we’ll take one for sure. But we’ll talk about it.’’
There really wasn’t much going on in Round 1. No big player trades or package deals to move up in the draft order.
“It was kind of a boring first round,’’ Hextall said. That’s not typical for this day.’’