Jim O’Brien comes to Ottawa with the potential to become the power forward they’ve been seeking. He was the youngest player in NCAA during the 2006-07 season and was expected to see his role increase with the University of Minnesota Gophers. His development course shifted when he decided to sign an entry-level contract with Ottawa so he could move to the WHL and play with the Seattle Thunderbirds.
2004-05: O’Brien’s path to the NHL began with the USA U-17 NTDP squad. In 39 games with the national team, O’Brien tallied 9 goals and 11 assists, along with 38 penalty minutes. He participated in two tournaments with the USA 88 club, the 4 Nations and the World U17s. In all, he played 8 games, scoring 3 goals and 4 assists.
2005-06: Moving on to USA’s U-18 NTDP squad, O’Brien’s numbers more than doubled, although he did play in almost 20 more games. He finished the season with 41 points (17 goals, 24 assists) and 76 penalty minutes in 51 games. He competed in the 4 and 5 Nations tournament, picking a goal and an assist in both competitions. At the 2006 U18 WCs, O’Brien helped USA capture the gold medal, scoring 3 goals, 2 coming on the power play, and adding an assist in 6 games.
2006-07: After two years in the US National Development program, O’Brien joined up for a season with the University of Minnesota (WCHA). In 41 games he scored six goals and 14 points, and the school took the WCHA title. He also competed with the US National U18 Team, netting three goals and seven points in seven games; the US won Silver at the tournament.
2007-08: The center set several career-highs this season, including goals (21), assists (34) and points (55) in 70 games with the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL). He did not compete internationally this season.
2008-09: O’Brien spent the majority of the season with the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL), his second straight season with the club. In 63 games he tallied a career-high 27 goals, 35 assists and 62 points. He also saw his first bit of pro hockey, registering an assist in six games with the B-Sens (AHL). He skated with the US National U20 Team, netting a goal and four points at the WJC. Expect to see him with Binghamton next season.
2009-10: His first full season of pro hockey came and went with some disappointment for the Minnesota native, only tallying eight goals and nine assists with Binghamton as he struggled playing against pro players.
2010-11: O’Brien brought his career back on track with an excellent second season with Binghamton tripling his goal scoring output, adding 32 assists and a solid plus 17 rating while centering the team’s second scoring line. His fine play earned him a six-game look in Ottawa where he was held off the score sheet. He was part of the contingent of players who contributed outstanding all-round play to the Binghamton championship team; taking on a checking role while scoring three times and setting up another four goals.
2011-12: Re-called by the Senators from Binghamton (AHL) in early February, O'Brien worked his way into a steady lower line role for Ottawa and skated in all seven games during the playoff series with the Rangers. He was plus-six with 3 goals and 3 assists, averaging 11:45 minutes of ice time in 28 regular season games. O'Brien had 1 assist, averaging 8:37 minutes in the playoffs. He played in 27 games for Binghamton, missing 19 games due to a foot injury in November, and scored 7 goals with 7 assists. He was dangerous on the penalty kill – scoring 3 of his 7 goals while short-handed. O'Brien was re-signed to a two-year contract by Ottawa in July 2012.
His 6'2 frame, strength and his ability to use to them to great advantage are O'Brien's strengths. While it is quite evident that he is still growing into his body, it's the immense potential of what he can do with it when he does that has many scouts taking serious notice. As good as O'Brien has shown that he can be in offensive situations, he's even better in defensive situations. He has the potential to become a very good defensive forward. His intelligence, willingness to block shots and the great care he takes in being responsible in his own end have helped make him an excellent penalty killer. He is also versatile in that he can play as a defenseman as well. O'Brien is an excellent skater combining powerful strides with deceptive speed. He isn't one to shy away from the physical side of the game and can deliver some very solid checks. With further physical development, O'Brien will become a more effective and intimidating presence on the ice.
Minnesota head coach Don Lucia's comment on O'Brien: "Jimmy, I think more than anything is extremely hard working, very dedicated and has high expectations for himself. You project players and where they are today but more importantly, where they can get to. Jimmy has a pretty good top-end where he can get to and I think he's going to get there with his dedication, commitment and work ethic."
Projects as a solid, two-way physical checking forward who fore-checks effectively which is an important element to any successful team.