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O'Brien eyeing start of pro career

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
With two seasons of junior hockey now behind him, Senators prospect forward Jim O'Brien will get his pro career officially started in the fall with the AHL's Binghamton Senators (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).

His junior hockey playing days are officially done.

Now it’s time for Ottawa Senators prospect Jim O’Brien to begin to make a real impact at the professional level of the game.

More than likely, it’ll mean full-time employment with the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League during the 2009-10 season. The 20-year-old native of Maplewood, Minn., got his feet wet there earlier this spring, suiting up for six games with the B-Sens after his Seattle Thunderbirds were eliminated from the Western Hockey League playoffs.

Brent Flahr, the Senators’ director of hockey operations, said gains in strength will determine when the 6-foot-2, 196-pound O’Brien will be ready to make the jump to the big club in Ottawa.

“Once he grows into his body and learns to protect the puck in the offensive zone and stay on his feet, he has a chance to be a solid winger,” said Flahr. “He shoots the puck a ton off the wing and he has the ability to score. He’s responsible defensively and once he gets stronger and grows into his body, he has a chance to be a quality NHL player.”

O’Brien flashed some of that offensive ability during his second season with the T-Birds, racking up 62 points – including 27 goals – in 63 games. That followed a 55-point rookie year with Seattle in 2007-08.

While O’Brien is listed as a centre, the Senators believe he’ll likely find himself on the wing when he makes it to the NHL.

“His top-end speed is going to be good. He has a big shot off the wing,” said Flahr. “He plays centre and winger, but we probably project him as more of a winger at the pro level.”

"He shoots the puck a ton off the wing and he has the ability to score. He's responsible defensively and once he gets stronger and grows into his body, he has a chance to be a quality NHL player." - Brent Flahr
That big shot was on full display during the 2009 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship at Scotiabank Place. O’Brien’s first-period blast from the right wing gave the United States a 3-0 lead in a New Year’s Eve game against Canada that the home side eventually rallied to win 7-4.

While the Americans were upset by Slovakia in the quarter-finals and went home without a medal, O’Brien still relished the opportunity to play in the building he soon hopes to call home.

“It’s definitely a great rink and they’ve got very passionate fans here,” he said. “It’s fun to play in that atmosphere.”

Wiercioch earns junior camp invite

Senators prospect defenceman Patrick Wiercioch is among 41 skaters invited to Team Canada's summer development camp for the 2010 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. The camp will be held Aug. 5-10 in Saskatoon, Sask., one of two host sites for the tournament (along with Regina), and is the first step in selecting the team that will aim for a record sixth straight WJC gold later on this year.

Wiercioch, who just completed his freshman season at the University of Denver, is one of 17 defenceman heading to the camp, including four returnees from the squad that captured the 2009 WJC gold at Scotiabank Place. The Senators' second-round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft was invited to the final selection camp for that team but wasn't picked for the final roster.

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