Centres of comparison

Robin Short
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Stats-wise, there are any number of similarities between newest IceCap O'Brien and ex-AHL Leaf Wellwood

We don't know for certain, but until Zach O'Brien came along and somehow went two full seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League without a single penalty, Kyle Wellwood might have been the last major junior hockey player to go a year and not spend even a minute in the penalty box.

Strange how these things work. From a numbers point of view, strictly speaking, there's a lot of likeness between O'Brien and Wellwood, a pair of centremen.

O'Brien, from St. John's, is listed as 5-foot-10 and 188 pounds, Wellwood at 5-10 and 181 (though he was probably closer to 185 or 190 a few years back).

This season in the QMJHL, O'Brien scored 50 goals and 51 assists. Wellwood, at 19, had 41 goals and 59 helpers.

The slick Wellwood, today a Winnipeg Jet (albeit an injured one), wheeled and dealed in St. John's for two winters as an AHL Maple Leaf, and now the soon-to-be-20 O'Brien gets his crack at the pros in his hometown.

O'Brien signed an amateur tryout agreement with AHL's St. John's IceCaps, and arrived here Thursday from Bathurst, N.B,. where he spent the season toiling for the Titan.

O'Brien's pro debut could be as early as tonight or Sunday afternoon when St. John's closes out the home portion of its regular season against the Springfield Falcons.

"This is like a dream come true," O'Brien said, "to turn pro in your hometown."

O'Brien rose through the St. John's minor hockey ranks, finishing up with midget Fog Devils, where he dominated the provincial league for 15- and 16-year-olds.

He was so good in midget hockey that he was invited to the San Jose Sharks' rookie camp in the fall of 2010, before he even played a full season of junior hockey.

Following a 65-point rookie season in Bathurst, O'Brien, oddly enough, wasn't invited back to the Sharks' camp, or any other NHL camp, which might be a statement in itself.

"I remember going to a few St. John's Maple Leafs games," he said, "and I remember hoping to be in this position some day."

Wednesday night, O'Brien was named the QMJHL's most sportsmanlike player, and awarded a spot on the second all-star team.

This is a big opportunity for O'Brien to impress. He won't dress in the IceCaps' post season, but his play over the next couple of days could determine if the Jets could be talked into signing him for next season.

And here's a little hint for O'Brien, for what it's worth: don't be shy about taking an aggressive penalty, if for no other reason than to quell any concerns out there, legitimate ones about a player who's never been introduced to the penalty box in two years.

The pros of being a pro

Remember Todd Marinovich, 'Robo QB', the California kid moulded to be a professional football quarterback by an obsessed father a few years back?

Never happened, of course. Young Todd, denied sweets and McDonald's as a youngster, played a bit in the NFL and CFL, and got into more than just Pepsi and hamburgers as an adult. Today, he's off the drugs and eking out a living selling art work through his web site.

As for the old man? Who knows.

But say one thing for Marv Marinovich - you can understand where he might have been coming from.

Education? A university degree?

Heck with that.

Pro sports, man. That's where it's at.

See this week where Joey Votto - Joey Votto! - signed for $251 and a half million for the next 12 years. And the San Francisco Giants locked up Matt Cain for six years, for $127.5 million. The same Cain who was 13-11 and 12-11 the last two years.

And it's not just baseball (although that sport just might be the nuttiest re salaries).

A 6-foot-3, 210-pound NHL defenceman who manages three or four goals and a dozen or so assists a year, together with 100-plus PIMS, is taking home $3 million or $4 million a year.

Harvard? Yale? Yeah, right.

Junior, time for dryland training

In Short

The IceCaps' Paul Postma was named to the 2011-12 AHL's first all-star team following a 13-goal, 31-assist regular season (so far). The high-scoring defenceman has missed the last eight games since injuring his leg last month in a game against the Manchester Monarchs. However, he has resumed skating. Also named to the first all-star team are goalie Yann Danis of Oklahoma City, defenceman Mark Barberio of Norfolk and forwards Chris Bourque and Keith Aucoin of Hershey and Kyle Palmieri of Syracuse ... X-rays on IceCaps' defenceman Jason DeSantis didn't show anything broken after DeSantis collided awkwardly with Portland Pirates' forward Andy Miele in the third period Wednesday night at Mile One. IceCaps coach Keith McCambridge termed it, "a positive from a negative." DeSantis, whose strong season has been overshadowed by Postma, is questionable against the Falcons this weekend ... Keeping with the IceCaps, they've reassigned goaltender Chris Carrozzi to the Ontario (Calif.) Reign of the ECHL. He let in five goals on 31 shots in Wednesday's 5-1 loss to the Pirates. That means Eddie Pasquale, a first-team all-rookie this season, will dress against Springfield ...


Organizations: IceCaps, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, NHL Winnipeg Jet San Jose Sharks Maple Leafs Jets McDonald's San Francisco Giants Manchester Monarchs

Geographic location: California, St. John's, Bathurst Oklahoma City Norfolk Syracuse Portland Ontario (Calif.)

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