By Thomas Harrington
The Ducks drafted Andrew O’Brien three years ago, and he just completed his second professional season.
After a rough rookie season, O’Brien’s sophomore campaign was much more successful. After appearing primarily in the ECHL and only four games in the AHL, O’Brien spent the entire season with Norfolk and appeared in 62 games, scoring four goals and 14 points. A year ago, I said that if O’Brien wanted to make it to the NHL, he would first have to prove that he belonged in the AHL, which is exactly what he did this past season. He still has a long way to go before he has a shot at making it to the NHL, but his progress this past season is encouraging. He improved in every facet of his game, but he does have a habit of taking bad penalties, something that can absolutely sink a team. As a result of call-ups and injuries, there were periods of the season where O’Brien was one of the best, if not the best, defenseman for Norfolk. This was especially true when Josh Manson was spending time in Anaheim as the Ducks dealt with a large number of injury issues last season.
This coming season, O’Brien needs to continue to develop all aspects of his game. The progress he made last season is great, but now he needs to progress even more this season. Depending on where others end up, I wouldn’t mind seeing him paired next to Manson or Shea Theodore. He plays a physical game, but he needs to work on his skating in order to use his size more effectively. He’s still adjusting to how the game is played at the AHL level and should continue to do so next year.
O’Brien has one more year on his entry-level deal and will be a restricted free agent when his deal expires. This coming season isn’t a make or break it season in terms of his NHL future, but it could very well be a make or break it season for him in terms of his future with Anaheim. The Ducks have drafted some great young defensemen in recent years. Some of them, like Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, and Cam Fowler are already in the NHL, while Manson is at the cusp of making the NHL on a full time basis. Others, like Theodore, Marcus Pettersson, Brandon Montour, and Jacob Larsson have yet to do so but likely have NHL futures in front of them. With so much good, young talent on the backend, O’Brien needs to stand out this season in San Diego and prove that the Ducks need to re-sign him next summer.
We won’t see O’Brien in the NHL this year, but if the Ducks do re-sign him in a year’s time and he continues to develop and progress as he has over the last year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him called up in a year or two if the Ducks run into injury issues. As of right now, his NHL future looks like a sixth or seventh defensemen, and he is going to really need to step up his game in the coming years if he wants to be more of an NHL regular.
My next prospect update will be on Matt Berkovitz.
We have been tracking the off-season status of the Ducks prospects. If you want more information about a specific prospect, then please visit here: Ducks Prospects: Summer Updates
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