In June of 2018, Ron Hextall made his last draft pick selections as general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers. If we look at his draft selections by year, they start off fairly promising. Travis Sanheim and Nicolas Aube-Kubel were the top two selections with Oskar Lindblom being a fifth-rounder in 2014.
The following year saw Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Felix Sandstrom as the top three picks. 2016 is when it starts to fade. Carter Hart and Wade Allison were two of the three second-round picks, but first-rounder German Rubtsov never made much of an impact for the Flyers.
In 2017, the Flyers selected Nolan Patrick; a pick that has been very controversial; especially with Cale Makar following soon after. 2017 also saw Morgan Frost be selected later in the first round and Noah Cates in the fifth round.
So, in 2018, the Flyers once again had two first-round picks. With pick #14, they selected Joel Farabee. Farabee has turned out well and, after having neck surgery, looks as if he is finding his stride again. The second pick, taken 19th overall, was Jay O’Brien. That pick has, so far, been less than successful.
It’s time for the Flyers to end the Jay O’Brien experiment
O’Brien got onto the hockey radar in 2016-17 as he played for Thayer Academy, an elite private school in Braintree, MA. In 30 games, he scored 24 goals and racked up 41 assists. Not bad. The following season, he improved on his previous year’s totals by scoring 43 goals and tallying 47 in 30 games. He would be selected by the Flyers in the draft the following year
After being drafted, he attended college, playing for the Providence Friars. Injuries, however, derailed his career. After scoring just five points in 25 games, entered the transfer portal to go to Boston University. He seemed to start to turn it around a little bit last year, scoring 10 goals with 12 assists. But then this offseason, he had to have hip surgery.
This season, for BC, O’Brien has just two goals and 10 assists. For a 23-year-old still playing college hockey as a former first-round pick, those numbers are not good enough.
Maybe he’ll hit his stride. Maybe he won’t. However, the Flyers could choose not to resign him. If that is the case, the team would be eligible for a compensatory draft pick. If they wait until this summer, they would lose his rights in August. In that case, he’d be worth a second-rounder in 2024.
However, the Flyers could choose to appeal. Because of the length of his injuries and his subpar play, they could seek to cut him earlier. If they win the appeal, he’d be worth a second-round pick in 2023. This is significant because the Flyers do not have a second-round pick this year because of the Rasmus Ristolainen trade. The Flyers could really use that draft pick right now.
It’s a shame that O’Brien hasn’t really panned out. The Flyers could’ve used a kid like that to be a sniper. The draft, in any sport, is a crapshoot. You never know who, from the first overall to the last overall pick, will be a contributor. Either way, the future for any team in any sport rests in the draft. The Flyers have had a lot of misses in the draft recently; which is one of the reasons they are in the shape they are in now. Hopefully, they can turn it around soon.