Minnesota sophomore-to-be forward/defenseman Jimmy O'Brien has signed with Ottawa and will fore-go his final three years at Minnesota.
O'Brien's story is certainly an interesting one. Despite being a native-Minnesotan, he chose to play bantam hockey for the Little Caesar's AAA program in Detroit before being selected for the US NTDP program. During his college recruitment, there were rumors of some teams questioning how O'Brien's personality would mesh with his teammates. O'Brien chose to play for Minnesota, and it was decided that he would join the Gophers in 2006, a year earlier than the rest of his class.
O'Brien was the youngest player in college hockey last season and has mixed results. He showed flashes of incredible talent, but because of his youth and lack of physical maturity, he was mostly resigned to the lower lines and didn't see much ice time in key situations. He finished the year with 7 goals and 8 assists in 43 games.
It was announced earlier this summer that O'Brien would be moving back to defense to add to the Gophers depth at that position. He had played a good deal of defense when he was younger. In June, he was drafted 29th overall by the Ottawa Senators.
Last week, a "source" told the Ottawa Citizen that O'Brien was close to signing with the Senators. Minnesota head coach Don Lucia called O'Brien, Lucia told the Star-Tribune the next day that there was no truth to that story. Furthermore, Sid Hartman reported that Lucia spoke face-to-face with O'Brien and said there was no truth to the story.
Minnesota had already lost defenseman Erik Johnson and Alex Goligoski to the professional ranks, and O'Brien was going to be expected to shoulder some of the load on the blueline. Minnesota should feel some affect, but they should also have enough talent that this loss shouldn't hurt them too much.