After being reduced to the role of spectator during the Senators’ development camp by a shoulder surgery, Jim O’Brien would like nothing more than to play a bigger part with Ottawa in a few years.
“I’m coming here and I’m ready to learn whatever they’ll teach me,” the 18-year-old centre said during a break at the camp, where 22 prospects got an early jump on the upcoming season under the tutelage of Senators staff.
Ottawa selected O’Brien, a centre, from the University of Minnesota in the first round (29th overall) of the NHL entry draft on June 22.
However, the six-foot-two, 184-pound native of Maplewood, Minn., is still recovering from April 30 surgery to fix an injury to his left shoulder and was unable to take part in any on-ice sessions during the camp.
O’Brien elected to have surgery to correct a problem in which his shoulder slipped in and out of its socket.
He could have preferred instead to build up the muscles in the area, but it would have made it a risk to reoccur down the road, so he chose to give up his summer instead.
His recovery is expected to take four to six months, but he hopes to be ready for when the Golden Gophers begin practising in preparation for the upcoming National Collegiate Athletic Association season in September.
His long-term plans, though, would see him playing a role in another long playoff run — much like the one O’Brien watched the Senators make last spring.
“I watched some of the playoffs,” he said. “I was really excited (to be drafted by Ottawa). They have a great winning program here. Hopefully, some day I can be part of that. I’ll do whatever I can to some day be a Senator and hopefully contribute.”
Having just completed his first season at Minnesota, where he was the youngest player in the NCAA ranks, it’ll still be a few years before O’Brien can think of breaking into the pros.
But getting a glimpse of the NHL life made him realize exactly what he’s working toward.
“The biggest thing is you come in to see how things are done around here,” said O’Brien, who roomed at the camp with 2005 first-round pick Brian Lee. Coincidentally, the defenceman is a rival of the O’Brien’s at school since he plays for the University of North Dakota Fightin’ Sioux.
“Just being around the locker-room and the rink’s an amazing feeling,” O’Brien said. “I know I’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of me, but it’s a good incentive. You get to see what it’s like. All these pro guys have this — this fabulous set-up, this fabulous arena — and that’s incentive there. You want to work there because someday you want to be there yourself.”