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The public address announcer's voice booms through the area: “...from Hingham, Massachusetts, alternate captain of the Terriers, Jay O'Brien!” The Boston University center played high school hockey at Thayer Academy in Braintree, Mass. Hockey in Massachusetts is a big deal. Currently there are 29 active NHL players from the state. Most of them played youth hockey in the Boston area. A first round pick in the 2018 draft, O’Brien hopes to become one of them next year. 

Boston University is part of the Hockey East conference, which boasts seven teams from Massachusetts. At the start of the season, 83 NHL players were Hockey East alumni. This year BU won the regular season conference championship on senior day against the Providence Friars. Kids in Boston dream of playing for their favorite Hockey East teams like BU, Boston College, or Northeastern. 

“It means everything to me, being a kid from Hingham who came to watch BU games with my family,” O'Brien says. “It means a ton.” 

When O'Brien was at Thayer he was coached by Tony Amonte, a U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer who played for Thayer and was from Hingham himself. Thayer plays in the Independent School League, an especially competitive circuit. O'Brien remembers the tough high school competition, singling out defenseman Jack Rathbone as his toughest opponent. Rathbone played at Harvard before going to play in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks—another example of the Boston-to-NHL pipeline. 

O'Brien was in his junior year at Thayer when he first started to take off, notching 65 points in 30 games. The next season, he had 80 points in 30 games, and even got a spot on the U-18 national team, for which he scored a goal and an assist in seven games. Then came draft night. 

“I was nervous for sure,” O'Brien says. “I kind of had a good feeling of where I was going to end up, but obviously anything can happen on draft day.”

The Philadelphia Flyers took O'Brien with the No. 19 pick and O'Brien remembers what happened next like it was yesterday: “A great day for me and my family. Those hugs with my mom, my dad, my brother, and sister—priceless.” 

O’Brien then went to Providence for his freshman year of college, but injuries derailed his season. After a tough start at Providence, it was decision time for O'Brien. He could stay at Providence, transfer somewhere else, or play for a junior team. O'Brien picked the latter and chose the Penticton Vees, in British Columbia, Canada. O'Brien had a great season with the Vees, getting himself back on track with 66 points in 46 games. Now that O’Brien had sat out a year from collegiate play he was eligible to transfer to BU.

BU has sent many star players to the NHL, like Hobey Baker award–winner Jack Eichel. O'Brien was also drafted in the first round just like Eichel, and now plays underneath the 2015 Beanpot championship banner that Eichel helped win. In the main concourse at Agganis Arena there are also 20 NHL jerseys hung on the wall of former Terriers. Names like McAvoy, Zegras, and Eichel can be seen. Next year there could be another jersey on the wall: O'Brien's.