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Bulldogs Jake O’Brien named OHL Rookie of the Year

Brantford BulldogsBulldogs Jake O'Brien named OHL Rookie of the Year

Brantford Bulldogs forward Jake O’Brien is the 2023-24 recipient of the Emms Family Award, presented annually to the OHL Rookie of the Year, as voted by the league’s General Managers. 

O’Brien led OHL rookies with 51 assists and 64 points over 61 games, surpassing Matthew  Strome and Arthur Kaliyev to set a pair of new Bulldogs all-time rookie marks. His 51 assists are the most by an OHL rookie in his first year of eligibility since Sarnia’s Alex Galchenyuk registered 52 in 2010-11. 

“It’s an honour to be voted OHL Rookie of the Year. This award symbolizes an incredible  amount of work put in and support to make the transition from AAA to the OHL. I want to say thank you to my coaches for their guidance and belief in me and to my  teammates for pushing me to be a better player every day,” said O’Brien. “I also want to thank my family for their constant support and encouragement. This  accomplishment wouldn’t have been possible without them.” 

Bulldogs C Jake O’Brien makes a nice move to get around Petes C Tommy Purdeller during second period action.

O’Brien’s impressive season also saw him lead OHL rookies in power play goals (8), power play assists (19) and game-winning goals (4). Additionally, O’Brien was the East Division Academic Player of the Month in January after being the league’s Rookie of the Month in December. 

“Jake has more than over exceeded expectations as a 16-year-old rookie,” said Jay McKee, Head Coach of the Brantford Bulldogs. “While his amazing point production stands out, his strengths go well beyond  the goals and assists he earned this season. Jake’s commitment to a two-way game, his  compete level and the leadership qualities he has shown are well beyond his years.” 

Brantford Bulldogs signed forward Jake O’Brien, the eighth overall selection in the 2023 OHL Draft, to a Standard Players Agreement on Thursday, May 4, 2023. Photo courtesy Reed Duthie.

A 6-foot-1, 165 lbs. centreman from Toronto, O’Brien was chosen by the Bulldogs with their first round, eighth overall pick in the 2023 OHL Priority Selection after he guided the Toronto Jr. Canadiens to an OHL Cup championship, being named tournament MVP following a 17-point, seven goals and ten assists, output over seven games. He competed in the 2023 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in November, representing Canada Red. O’Brien will be eligible for the 2025 NHL Draft. 

O’Brien is the first player in Bulldogs history to win the award. He follows other recent winners in Saginaw Spirit forward Michael Misa (2022-23), Guelph Storm defenceman Cam Allen (2021- 22) and Kingston Frontenacs forward Shane Wright (2019-20).

Brantford Bulldogs selected Toronto Jr. Canadiens centre Jake O’Brien with the eighth overall pick in the OHL Draft on Friday, April 21, 2023.

The Emms Family Award was donated by Leighton “Hap” Emms, former owner of the Barrie, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines OHL franchises. The award is selected by all 20 member team  General Managers. Teams were asked to submit only one nominee from their own club for  consideration on the ballot and were not permitted to vote for the player from their own  hockey club. 

O’Brien finished as the front-runner in the award voting process followed by goaltender Carter George of the Owen Sound Attack who placed second. 

O’Brien is the OHL’s nominee for the Canadian Hockey League Rookie of the Year Award,  presented at the CHL Awards Ceremony happening at the 2024 Memorial Cup, which takes place from May 24 through June 2 in Saginaw, Michigan. O’Brien will be  formally presented with the Emms Family Award at the OHL’s Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, June 12th at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. 

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