Has been invited to team’s training camp later this month
© Telegram file photo/Joe Gibbons
In this April 6, 2012 file photo, forward Zach O’Brien is shown skating at a St. John’s IceCaps practice at Mile One Centre. With his major junior career finished, O’Brien is getting another tryout with the American Hockey League’s IceCaps. The 21-year-old from St. John’s has received an invitation to the team’s training camp later this month.
Zach O’Brien hopes his stay with the St. John’s IceCaps lasts much longer his first one with the American Hockey League club.
To do that, the forward from St. John’s says it’s important to show he can play “a 200-foot” game, meaning he’ll need to play as well defensively as he did offensively throughout his major junior career, which saw him score 97 goals and 193 points in his final two seasons with the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
Last month, the 21-year-old received an invitation to take part in the IceCaps' training camp, which will be held Sept. 23-29 in St. John's. This is the second time around for O’Brien with the American Hockey League team. He signed an amateur tryout contract with the IceCaps following the 2011-12 season and appeared in one regular-season game.
That stint, although short, provided some reinforcement of what’s expected at the professional level.
“I’m pretty happy to get another shot with them (IceCaps),” said O’Brien, who had also attended the San Jose Sharks’ rookie camp in the fall of 2010.
“My game is to bring some offensive skill, but I’m also willing to work hard and become more of a complete player because I know that’s what they want me to do.
“If I want to stick (at the AHL level), I know I have to prove I can play in the defensive end as well.”
When asked what he took from O’Brien’s first turn with his team a year-and-half ago, IceCaps’ head coach Keith McCambridge noted the opportunity was somewhat curtailed by the fact St. John’s “had a veteran-laded team.”
“But you could see he obviously had a real high skill level,” said McCambridge.
“However, I wouldn’t want to give an immediate assessment of him. It’s not fair to the player until we’ve seen him as he is right now.
“That’s why we’re bringing him into camp, to see his development at this point in his career.”
O’Brien has been skating two, and sometimes three, times a week since July with Newfoundland NHLers such as Teddy Purcell, Ryane Clowe, Luke Adam and Adam Pardy,
“I’ve also been working out all summer with trainer Bobber Thompson,” he said after coming back from a pick-up basketball game Wednesday night.
O’Brien said playing in the ECHL is his first option if he can’t crack the IceCaps’ lineup.
While he has also considered going the university route, he said that idea is on hold while he continues to pursue a pro career.
The 5-10, 190-pounder cleaned up on end-of-the-year honours in his final season with the Titan, earning awards as the team’s MVP and top offensive player of the year, the fans’ choice as player of the year and the points leader from three-star selections.
In a total of 192 QMJHL games with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Acadie-Bathurst, O’Brien had 126 goals, 134 assists and a plus-43 rating. He also had just two penalty minutes, those coming on an interference minor late last season. It broke a string of 186 games without a penalty.
As far as his basketball skills are concerned, O’Brien said he’s been told he’s pretty good “for a hockey player.”