Will O’Neill

Flyers

Flyers’ Will O’Neill makes NHL debut 11 years after being drafted

8 Comments

His first shift probably won’t be remembered years down the line, mainly because it lasted a whole four seconds. But Thursday night, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Will O’Neill finally made his NHL debut.

The 29-year-old O’Neill stepped onto the ice at Scottrade Center in St. Louis 4,198 days after his name was called in the seventh round of the 2006 Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers. (Six rounds earlier they selected Bryan Little 12th overall.) When he hopped over the boards early in the first period of the Flyers’ 2-0 win, he was quickly back on the bench after a Dale Weise penalty ended his first shift after four seconds.

But he would hit the ice 11 more times and play 9:25 during the win as his mom, sister and best friend were in attendance.

“He did a good job. He did his part, he did his job,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said.

After O’Neill’s draft, it took him some time to finally reach professional hockey. He would spend two years in the United States Hockey League with the Omaha Lancers before becoming an integral part of the blue line with the NCAA’s Maine Black Bears. At the end of his senior season he made the jump to the American Hockey League’s St. John’s Ice Caps, one year after the Thrashers became the Winnipeg Jets.

Injuries to Radko Gudas, Shayne Gostisbehere and Andrew MacDonald forced Flyers general manager Ron Hextall to bring in reinforcements, and after 346 games in the AHL O’Neill, who was selected 210th out of 213 picks in 2006, finally got the call.

“It was pretty cool. It was the first one I’ve received like that,” he said on Wednesday. “I knew that someone was trying to call me, so I had a little bit of an idea. I was pretty cool for a few seconds there and then he told me. It’s exciting. It’s cool for me. I’m excited to be able to play the game.”

We see these stories every season, from Bracken Kearns to Pat Cannone — sometimes those long bus rides in the minors eventually do pay off with a chance in The Show. Who knows how long O’Neill’s stay in the NHL will be, but a goal was certainly reached Thursday night in St. Louis.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Tonight on NBCSN: Boston College and Maine battle for Hockey East supremacy

2 Comments

A pair of thrilling performances in yesterday’s Hockey East semifinals sets up the tournament’s championship game with a lot at stake for one team (Maine), while the other has their spot already virtually assured (Boston College).

According to the Pairwise Rankings, the method the NCAA uses to choose the tournament field, No. 1 Boston College already has their ticket to the big dance punched and they even know who their first-round opponent will be; they’ll get the winner of the Atlantic Hockey championship game either R.I.T. or Air Force.

If you think having their fate set for them will deter BC from trying to beat Maine, you don’t know Jerry York’s teams very well. After seeing the game Johnny Gaudreau (pictured below) put up against Providence in the semifinals, the Eagles are primed for victory. Considering that BC is in the midst of a 14-game winning streak, things are cruising along nicely and that’s not even accounting for guys like Chris Kreider and Barry Almeida doing much yesterday.

source:  Making things a bit easier for BC was seeing how goalie Parker Milner settled in after a rocky start to their game against Providence. That’s a game that could’ve gotten out of hand had Milner not found his rhythm. Little things like that help keep the Eagles rolling along and they’ll need more of that against Maine.

The Black Bears’ big win over BU help them to virtually in the NCAAs as a team can be. They’ll be at a serious disadvantage in this one as their Hobey Baker Award finalist, Spencer Abbott, left yesterday’s game after taking an elbow to the head. Without Abbott, Maine will be missing their leading scorer although that wasn’t enough to hold them back late in yesterday’s game.

Stepping up in Abbott’s place were forwards Joey Diamond (pictured above) and Greg Shemansky as the Black Bears held off BU. Goalie Dan Sullivan’s late game heroics helped prevent BU from tying the game up late and they’ll need him and the defense to step up big to keep BC off the board. With so many talented scorers on Boston College to hold down, Maine is going to have their hands full to try and steal the Hockey East crown.

No. 1 Boston College faces No. 11 Maine at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN