The American Family Insurance ALL-USA Boys Hockey Team for the 2017-18 season was selected based on performance, level of competition and strength of schedule.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Grant Paranica, Grand Forks Central
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jay O’Brien, Thayer Academy
Name: Jay O’Brien
School: Thayer Academy (Braintree, Mass.)
College: Providence College
After Jay O’Brien finished his junior season at (Braintree, Mass.) Thayer Academy, he spent some time in Youngstown, Ohio, playing a few games for the Phantoms of the United States Hockey League, the top junior league in the country. He had the option to stay with the Phantoms as a senior, but the 5-foot-11, 180-pound center decided the better move was to play out his final season of high school.
The Tigers sure are glad he came back. With his strong skating and dazzling stick skills, O’Brien scored 43 goals, dished out 37 assists and terrorized opponents all season as Thayer (17-12-1) shook off a slow start to the season to reach the New England Prep School Athletic Council Large School Tournament title game. Those abilities and results on the ice are why O’Brien, 18, is the 2018 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Player of the Year.
“He can skate and he’s got a motor,” Thayer head coach Tony Amonte, a long-time NHL player and a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, told the Patriot Ledger. “It’s tough to play against him. If you take the puck away from him, he’s going to chop your leg off to get it back.”
There was more to O’Brien’s season than just playing for Thayer. In between NEPSAC games this winter, O’Brien would travel to join the USA Hockey Under-18 National Team to play exhibition games against college programs.
“I really felt like I had more time and space against the college team than I did against a prep school team,” O’Brien said in the Ledger feature. “They’re on me the whole game. I’m getting banged, getting hacked, getting chipped, all that stuff … I think it’s getting me more ready for college hockey.”
O’Brien will play his collegiate hockey about 45 minutes south of Thayer at Providence College. But before he laces up his skates for the Friars, there is the NHL Draft in late June. In its most recent January rankings, NHL Central Scouting slotted O’Brien as the No. 44 North American skater eligible for the draft. Hockeyprospect.com ranked O’Brien No. 31 in its overall draft rankings in early March. If that held, O’Brien would be a first-round pick.
“He brings everything that we look for in our players—speed, skill and compete,” PC coach Nate Leaman said. “He can play the game any way. If it’s a gritty, grinding game, he can be gritty and grind and take a puck hard to the net. If there is open ice and space to make plays, he can make just about any play that is there.”
ONE YEAR AGO: Who made the ALL-USA Team last season?