If you are one of the fortunate souls who get the NHL Network, you will be delighted to know that today, at 4:00 PM (ET), they will be broadcasting a game between Cornell University and Notre Dame. Cornell is prospect O'Byrne's team, so this is a rare opportunity to see him play (assuming he's dressed).
Well. O'Byrne is big... really big. He looks like a monster out there. He hits like crazy; every time he's on the ice, he's crushing people into the boards and using his sheer mass to push people off and steer them away from the puck. That is nice to see.
But he still has a long way to go. He's on the third pairing, and it isn't hard to see why - often I found him playing perimeter hockey. He seemed to be tentative, kind of just floating around as the other team battled in Cornell's zone. At one point he missed a puck he should have had to break up the play, and the end result was a Notre Dame player hitting the crossbar. He didn't get much icetime and was not played at all on the PP.
Well, he's young. Lots of his mistakes are excusable. I like how he plays the body, and I think his size is a definite plus. But he's got his work cut out for him if he's going to become an NHL player. Let's see if he gets some more icetime in the second...
O'Byrne showed why Montreal drafted him in this period. He's a giant who hits everything he sees. He'll have a lot of developpement to do, and he's a couple of years away from the NHL if he ever reach it, but he showed a good potential.
He skated well and was sound defensively, but he never went to the offence and I didn't like how he did his first passes out of the zone. Often, he did soft passes by the board (He did it again while I was writing the next sentece ) who were often interecepted. He look also shaky at time, not knowing if he should take the man or go for the puck and he just let the other guy go by him.
Even with these little problems, he's extremely useful to a team by winning the one on one battles and shaking the other teams players. He can clear the crease really well, and he's so big for a young guy!
As I said, developpement will be the key for him but if he gets the time, he could become a good 3rd pairing physical defenceman ( He just crushed a guy and I loved it! ). He has a great coach this year and I hope that he can learn a lot by playing with Cornell.
I remember O'Byrne saying when he was drafted he had always been a late bloomer in every league he had played in, so I guess we can expect (hope) to see him develop tremendously over the next 3-4 years in College.
Physically, O'Byrne looks like a man among boys. He clearly has already amazing strenght and a big reach that serves him well. He's much more physical I thought he would be which is quite a good surprise I have to say. Along the boards, he looks very comfortable and can man-handle any player without any kind of trouble. A very positive aspect is also that he seems to be willing to sacrifice his body for the team (ie: take a check, block a shot, etc.). He's also served well by his hulking size as in the 2nd period, a pass heading towards him at the point in the offensive zone was broken up and the Notre-Dame player (I didn't catch his name) tried to brake away but O'Byrne only had to take 5-6 long lazy looking strides to stay with him and make him lose the puck.
However, when the play develops quickly in the neutral zone or in the crease, he seems to be looking around not knowing what to do. The guy has alot to learn to be an effective Dman but he's definitelly at the right place as this is a fast paced and very physical league where he will learn to mature mentally as well as physically. It's a good league to increase in body mass as well as the number of games isn't as crazy as in the CHL, therefore the players can work out in the gym alot more. I can only imagine how intimidating he will become if he can add 10-15lbs of muscular mass.
I'm not kidding myself about his upside, I think he could become a good physical stay-at-home, but nothing spectacular on offense and if he turns out well, he could eventually become a pro. I understand why he was drafted that high as he has so much shear power, the potential to dominate physically is there indeed. But this player will have to be molded into something because right now, he looks like a very raw and more physical and defensive version of Pierre Dagenais. Hesitant and lots of floating, not because he's lazy but because it seems to be going very (too) fast for him. This is to be expected from a guy playing at a new level for the first time, and his work ethic makes me beleive he should continue to develop while he's in Cornell.
I watched some of the game when I got home from work, I got it on tape, and will get to watch him play again tomorrow at 4 pm as they play Ohio State who upset #3 Maine (who were without their top goalie, WJC Team USA)
O'Byrne impressed me a lot with his hitting just about everything, and he skates really well. I'll finish watching the game later though. It was a battle of the Freshman goalies, with Brown and Wes O'Neil as likely 1st rounders this summer. (although Brown has not been as good lately, O'Neil reminds me of Hainsey somewhat but much better in his own end)