O'Gara under the radar as bona fide B's prospect

O'Gara under the radar as bona fide B's prospect
July 16, 2014, 11:15 am
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Robbie O’Gara is far from a household name in the wide world of Boston Bruins’ prospects.

That kind of designation is saved for 2012 first round pick Malcolm Subban, an honest-to-goodness member of hockey royalty as one of three brothers to get drafted. David Pastrnak, this season’s first-round sensation, also finds himself rising up the ranks after a star turn at last week’s development camp.

This is by no means a surprise for O’Gara. He wasn’t a first-round pick, and instead was the 151st player selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft following his junior season at Milton Academy. He was described in the minutes after being selected as a “giant slab of clay” that the Bruins could watch develop and shape over the course of five or six years.

The young blueliner was 6-foot-4 and raw-boned at 185 pounds at that very first development camp as a teenager, and seemed a little out of place at the time. O’Gara will admit to this day just how wide-eyed he was competing against older, more established Bruins prospects.

But things have changed, and O’Gara has molded himself into a big, athletic defenseman that looks, sounds and plays like future NHL material.  

In the years since O’Gara’s first brush with the Bruins, he has put two seasons at Yale University under his belt, won a national championship as a freshman, and developed into a 6-foot-4, 215-pound defenseman prospect as one of the best blueliners in his college conference.

It’s been an amazing trajectory, and is a credit to both the hard-working youngster and the Bruins scouting staff that originally saw the potential.  

“If you’ve watched him play over the course of his two seasons at Yale," said Bruins assistant general manager Don Sweeney, "and realize how much he plays and the situations he plays in — and part of the national championship team as a freshman — I think you quickly understand that he has a lot of good tools, a lot of things that we are very, very excited about as a National Hockey League defenseman. He’ll have to continue to work on some stuff, he plays both of the sides of the ice as a lefty and a righty, as an off-shoot/off-side player – that is important.

“His offensive confidence has continued to emerge so he’s continuing to round out his game. This isn’t a sprint. The finished product is still well down the road, but he’s made a lot of good strides. We feel really good about where he is and, more importantly, where he’s going to go to.”

The strength, instincts and toughness in the defensive zone is where it all starts with O’Gara, and it’s why he plays big, important minutes for Yale. But it’s not all about defense for the rangy O’Gara as it was once projected to be as a stay-at-home defenseman.

He also has the most important trait for any hopeful NHL prospect: he eats, breathes and sleeps the game of hockey and seems to love putting in the endless amounts of hard work to improve himself as a player.  

This summer’s development camp saw him really take another step toward potentially becoming an NHL mainstay, and bring a little more of an offensive dimension carrying the puck and making crisp first passes. O’Gara isn’t going to be the next Paul Coffey by any means, but those simple offensive skills will be his bread and butter if he hopes to continue developing into his role model with the Rangers he grew up rooting for.

"It was always Marc Staal when I was growing up – a guy who can play an offensive game but is always solid, at home, in his position,” said O’Gara. “It’s kind of what I want to be. I want to be that guy that’s going to be solid and can play against the top line, but can add a little bit offensively, too.

“My dad always said, this is the guy you’ve got to watch. This is who you can be.”

O’Gara had four goals and 11 points in 33 games last season and was second team All-Ivy for Yale as a sophomore, and continues to build a case that his dad will eventually be proven right.