Even if you are selected within the top ten of the NHL draft, there is no guarantee that you’ll make it to the pinnacle of the sport, and for every round after the first, the percentages drop significantly. By the time you hit the fifth round, the likely hood of making it to the National Hockey League is less than 20%.
In 2012, the San Jose Sharks selected Boston University center Daniel O’Regan in the fifth round, 138th overall. During a four-year career at BU, O’Regan became one of the schools most prolific scorers. For a program that has been around for 100 years, O’Regan became just the 18th player in its illustrious history to eclipse 150 points. As a freshman, he was named a Hockey East All-Rookie and paced the Terriers in points (38). As a junior, he helped lead BU to a Hockey East Championship and was selected a Hockey East First All-Star. As a senior, O’Regan was selected as a Second Team All-American and was also a first Hockey East All-Star.
Born in Berlin because his father Tom O’Regan was playing professionally in Germany, Danny returned to the States as a young child, developing his hockey skills in the hockey hotbed of Boston. O’Regan represented the USA in both the under-18 and under-20 World Junior Championships, winning an under-18 Gold Medal in 2012.
Despite all of his collegiate and international accomplishments, O’Regan came into last year’s training camp as a relatively unknown commodity amongst media and fans.
In 2016-17, his first year of professional hockey, O’Regan lit the AHL up, totaling 58 points in just 68 games, and was named the Red Garrett Memorial Award winner as the AHL's Rookie of the Year. He was also voted to the mid-season AHL All-Star game and was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team.
O’Regan beat the odds by playing in three games for the Sharks in 2016-17, scoring his first NHL goal on April 8, 2017, against Calgary.
During training camp in September, with a year of pro hockey under his belt, Danny was the early buzz of camp having scored in the Sharks first preseason game against Anaheim on Sept. 19. In the end, a numbers game forced the second-year pro back down to the Barracuda and another year of seasoning in the AHL.
The difference between an NHLer and AHLer often comes down to two things, consistency and details. Reassignment can often be disappointing for young players, but the AHL formula has proven to provide the experience needed to find longevity at the next level.
“Danny is going to get his opportunity, as long as he continues his consistency in the AHL.” said Barracuda Head Coach Roy Sommer. “When he gets his opportunity, he’s got to make the most of it because he can play at that level. I see other guys having success up there, and Danny can do all the things those guys can do.”
The greatest obstacle that the 23-year-old has faced in his hockey career is his size or lack thereof. But as the game evolves to speed, skill, and quickness, his style of play will only become more valued and appreciated.
“I don’t even think about my size,” said O’Regan. “I’ve gotten this far so it’s not even worth thinking about. I don’t think it’s held me back and I’ve adapted to it, and I’ll continue to adapt to it. A lot of guys my size are having success in the NHL, so it’s not as big of a factor as it maybe it once was.”
O’Regan is just 5-foot-9, 176 pounds. But some of the NHL’s best have a similar stature. Patrick Kane is 5-foot-10, 177 pounds, Johnny Gaudreau is 5-foot-9, 157 pounds, and Tyler Johnson is 5-foot-8, 183 pounds.
“There’s nothing wrong with over marinating in the American League,” said Barracuda Assistant Coach Ryan Mougenel. “We talk about guys having longevity and sustainability in the National Hockey League, and that’s what it’s about. Fine-tuning his game, so it’s NHL ready, and I feel like he’s right there and he’s where the game is going.”
A year ago, the Barracuda threw the then-rookie forward into all situations. A prolific sniper on the power play, O’Regan led one of the league’s best man-advantage units with 11 goals. He also killed off penalties and was a go to player in every situation.
O’Regan’s first step quickness often leaves defenders flat-footed and out of position. His speed and hockey IQ allows him to see the ice and read plays before they develop. Those skills are what O’Regan hangs his hat on. But he also knows, there is still plenty of room for improvement in his game, and the AHL is providing a platform for his development.
“I’m trying to take the same approach as I did last year,” said O’Regan. “It doesn’t matter which team I’m playing on, there’s plenty of opportunities to get better every day. Whether it’s tightening up in the d-zone, or face-offs, puck protection, and finding different ways to score, it doesn’t matter, there is always room to improve and become a better all-around player.”