Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sens sign first round pick Jim O'Brien

Yet another first round pick from the 2007 draft signed today. The Senators have put University of Minnesota center Jim O'Brien under contract. O'Brien will play major junior next year for the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds.
"I never wanted to take a kid out of school. I never encouraged that. I think Jim feels that this is the best road for him at this point in his career."

- Senators GM Bryan Murray

Of course not. In college, O'Brien develops for free and you continue to hold his rights until he leaves school.

But don't take Murray at face value. Prospects generally leave school for junior either because there's a signing bonus waiting for them or they want force the team's hand by causing their rights to expire sooner. The Sens want O'Brien under contract. But again, why?

In O'Brien's case, they may think he's not developing properly at Minnesota. It's common practice for drafted Europeans to play a season or two as a CHL import at the request of their NHL team in order to get introduced to the North American game. The Thunderirds have another such first rounder in Riku Helenius. (That makes three first round prospects for Seattle next season when you include Thomas Hickey.)

Murray's not getting O'Brien out of school without the security of a contract. Hopefully, it's worth the risk. As a fan of my hometown T-Birds, I really hope so.

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