Sens try to find right fit for first-rounder

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

The jury is still out on Jim O'Brien.

O'Brien didn't have any points in the club's 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins rookies yesterday at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium, but the club is planning to give the top pick in the 2007 NHL entry draft a chance on the wing when main camp opens Saturday.

O'Brien, selected No. 29 overall from the University of Minnesota two seasons ago, spent thepast two seasons with WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds. The 20-year-old is pencilled in to play with the club's AHL affiliate in Binghamton.

His goal is to suit up for some games in the NHL this season, but he has a lot to do in order to make that a reality.

O'Brien was almost a point-a-game player with 62 points in 63 games last season in Seattle, but his skating leaves a lot to be desired. It would help his cause tremendously if he stood out during tonight's final game of rookie camp tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs hopefuls.

“I’m just trying to go out there and be the best I can,” said O’Brien, who had one assist in six games with the Baby Sens at the end of last season. “A goal for me could be to play with the big club this year. That’s a good goal, get as many games as I can with them.

“If I keep working, I know I’m going to be OK.

“I know it’s not going to be an easy transition. There might be some ups and downs, but I’m willing to work through those so I can get some games in this year. I need to get a little bit quicker.”

‘Speed and shot’

Binghamton coach Don Nachbaur got a long look at O’Brien the past two seasons, while he was coaching Tri-Cities in the WHL. He believes the Maplewood, Minn., native is just scratching the surface.

“He’s got a tremendous upside. There’s a lot of skill. He’s really good with the puck and he’s still got some things to learn without the puck. He has that potential and that’s the key word,” said Nachbaur.

GM Bryan Murray said he liked the way O’Brien competed.

“His speed and shot coming off the wing would benefit from that move,” said Murray. “He has played centre. He struggled in the first game, but he was considerably better today.”

The Senators had a strong performance against Boston, but came up short and couldn’t score on former Barrie Colts goalie Michael Hutchinson, who stopped 47 shots.

Only Keegan Dansereau, former 67 Jason Bailey and Mike Hoffman were able to beat Hutchinson. Bailey left the game after getting hit from behind.

“We threw a lot of rubber at their goaltender and fell short,” said Nachbaur. “We were outstanding. We were good and we had a lot of good efforts out there. Yes, we came up short on the scoreboard, but in terms of effort, we were really sharp in that area.”


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