Zach O'Brien didn't show much disappointment with not being drafted in June.
The recently turned 18-year old forward, currently in San Jose Sharks rookie camp on an invite basis, doesn't come from your average talent pool resource.
O'Brien comes from the St. John Fog Devils, who were bronze medalists at the 2010 National Midget AAA Championship. It may not be exactly an encore of Sidney Crosby putting on a show in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but his 17-point blitz in the seven-game Telus Cup tournament was enough to impress Sharks brass.
He scored a hat trick and added an assist in the bronze medal game, a 5-4 win for St. John.
“They were up there for the bronze medal game they came up and talked to me,” said O'Brien, who also managed two assists in five combined games last year with Rouyn-Noranda and Acadie-Bathurst of the QMJHL. “They like the way I played and said they would keep in touch over the summer.”
O'Brien never got the call on draft day in Los Angeles, but was brought aboard via the camp invite shortly after the draft. What then resulted was a summer long workout regimen with a notable and popular Sharks forward designed to put him on the fast track to becoming even more noticed.
That forward? Fellow Newfoundland native Ryane Clowe
“Watching him train, it shows you what it takes to play in the big league,” said O'Brien. “He's a great guy and he's passed on advice like the fact that you have to work hard in the offseason, and it pays off.”
“Speed is a big thing up here and you have to be able to adjust.”
O'Brien got his first taste of that speed against the older and camp experienced Vancouver Canucks, in a 5-3 Sharks defeat that in spite of the loss, had people brimming about the moxie that many young Sharks skaters showed in the game, including O'Brien.
His assignments would often include shifts against former World Junior Championship rock star forward Jordan Schroeder, the fleet Bill Sweatt and agile winger Prab Rai, who constantly tested the young Sharks throughout the game.
Like many others, it turned into a learning experience designed for O'Brien's memory bank.
“It was tough to adjust,” said O'Brien. “Especially since I haven't even had a whole year of experience in junior. It's a big step up from Midget, but I'm feeling a little better heading through the tournament.”
What has been filling in his time between games is constant student-teacher application on the ice, including the occasional words of wisdom from another popular Sharks figure, Mike Ricci, now serving as Development Coach.
“They're getting a year's worth of information in three or four days,” said Ricci. “It's hard on him like anybody else. He's got some good hands. His offensive skills will always be there. We have to work on all parts of his game and he's been doing a good job.”
He's destined for his first full in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the same talent pipeline that features a wide open, offensively dynamic pace.
O'Brien said his goal is simple, in terms of fitting in.
“I hope to put up a nice few points this year,” said O'Brien. “Maybe 50 points or so – that would be nice. I'll be playing with a lot of good guys and it will be a successful season.”
He's no stranger to success, and apparently, no stranger to opportunity.