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Ottawa uses first-round pick on University of Minnesota centre Jim O'Brien

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Ottawa uses first-round pick on University of Minnesota centre Jim O'Brien

The Canadian Press
By:

That's why he opted for University of Minnesota centre Jim O'Brien with his team's first-round pick, 29th overall, on Friday night.

The six-foot-two, 185-pound American is a good skater with mobility who has above-average puck skills in traffic, and he's willing to battle for loose pucks. He's a smart player who is fiercely competitive, which makes him difficult to play against.

"I'm a player that needs to keep working on my game," said O'Brien. "I need to get bigger, stronger and faster."

He reminds scouts of San Jose captain Patrick Marleau. With added strength, he could excel in the NHL the way the rules are now being applied.

O'Brien was the youngest skater in U.S. college hockey last winter. He got limited ice time in a stacked lineup, scoring seven goals and assisting on eight in 43 games with the Golden Gophers.

He was a defenceman in minor hockey in Minnesota, which explains why he says Chris Chelios is his favourite NHL player.

O'Brien was the second-last player selected Friday night. The second round starts on Saturday morning.

It was a big relief to hear his name called.

"You wonder if you're going to have to wait until tomorrow," he said. "But at the end of the day, come Monday morning I'm going to be the same hockey player I was coming into the weekend."

The Senators are big on that player.

Murray coached Ottawa in the championship series against a big Anaheim team that won the Stanley Cup in five games. He saw enough of the Ducks to appreciate the need for muscle in his lineup, and he hopes O'Brien will one day be flexing his biceps in Scotiabank Place.

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Ottawa uses first-round pick on University of Minnesota centre Jim O'Brien