This is a series profiling the Hurricanes’ 2021 draft class. Bobby Orr Jr. Is the fourth profile in this series.
Robert “Bobby” Orr is always going to be compared to Hall of Fame defenseman Bobby Orr since they share the same name, but the two couldn’t be more different. The Hurricanes’ Bobby Orr was not named after the legendary defenseman and is trying to carve out a legacy of his own. Orr was selected in the fifth round, 136th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft and will play for the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads this coming season. In this profile, I’ll break down Orr’s game in order to discover what made him an NHL prospect and what tools he has that could help carry him to the NHL.
One of the first things that stands out about Orr’s game is the pace that he plays at, a common theme with a lot of Carolina’s picks over the past few years. Orr is almost always in top gear and can absolutely fly when he gets going. Judging from how he looked in the QMJHL preseason, Orr has already gotten at least a half step faster, making him a dangerous player in transition. Orr’s top speed is close to elite and he can accelerate to his top speed faster than most QMJHL players can, meaning that he can gain separation and start an odd man rush or breakaway with ease.
Orr’s stride is clean with very few imperfections, meaning that he can keep his balance and consistently reach high levels of speed. The phrase “unrelenting motor” gets tossed around a lot with prospects, and I’ll have to use it to describe Orr. He rarely stops working, especially on the forecheck. Orr plays at a high pace and wants to disrupt the play, so he’ll work hard to be as much of a pain in the offensive zone as possible. A common theme in this profile will be that Orr reminds me of Brock McGinn in many ways. There are a lot of similarities in the way each player operates, and pace is one of them. Both players never take a shift off and up the tempo as soon as they step on the ice.
Bobby Orr’s skating helps him out a lot on the forecheck, but I decided to make this its own section because of how much of a pain he is to play against. Orr is going to make you work to get the puck out of the offensive zone. He has an active stick that gets in the way of breakout passes and creates a turnover. Most of the time, these turnovers will lead to a scoring chance. Orr can shift the momentum of a game back in the favor of his team and ensure that his team keeps applying the pressure. Orr is a smart player and can anticipate when an opposing player is going to make a breakout pass and where they’ll be passing to. He’ll get into those lanes and all of a sudden the defenders have to panic because Orr is taking the puck towards the net.
Orr could stand to add about 15-20 pounds in the next few years. He likes to play physically and can hit players in order to disrupt the play and knock them off of the puck. It’s another method he uses for keeping the puck in the offensive zone, and he’s already good at it. Adding more muscle will make Orr more of a force on the forecheck and one of the most frustrating players for opponents to deal with.
I alluded to Orr’s hockey sense earlier when talking about his abilities on the forecheck. Orr sees the ice at an above-average level, which is why he’s able to create those turnovers on the forecheck. He does the same thing in the defensive zone, and while I do see that he is prone to some lapses in coverage, it’s clear that he knows where to position himself. Defensively, what impressed me the most about Orr’s hockey sense in the defensive zone was how quickly he was able to react to a pass and turn it the other way. He’ll notice when he’s in a player’s blind spot and quickly move to take the puck and turn on the jets for a breakaway. Orr doesn’t need more than a few steps to gain enough space between himself and a defender, making him a pain in transition and on the rush.
This is from last season. A nice takeaway leads to a breakaway goal from Orr here. pic.twitter.com/FKur2lQST6— Canes Prospects (@CanesProspects) August 29, 2021
Orr is able to notice a bad pass and immediately take it the other way. No player is going to be perfect 100% of the time, and Orr has his lapses in all three zones. What’s important is that you can rest assured knowing that Orr is only going to improve and he’ll smooth out those rough patches over time. He thinks the game at a high level and that should help lead to NHL success.
Something else that I noticed while watching Orr was his uncanny ability to always be in the right place at the right time. It’s as if he knew exactly where to be. Whether it was to intercept a pass in the offensive or defensive zone, put in a rebound, or make a pass, Orr was going to be in the perfect position to make it happen. This ties into his hockey sense because a player isn’t going to be in the right position unless they’re able to read and react to where the play is going.
The two tools that help Orr have success in the offensive zone are his skating and hockey sense. This isn’t a knock on his shooting, passing or positioning but rather a testament to how impressive his skating and hockey sense are. Orr has a quick wrist shot that can beat goalies from a variety of angles and distances. I wouldn’t call him a scoring threat from anywhere in the offensive zone, but his wrist shot is good enough to beat most QMJHL goalies from the high slot and closer. These two clips are from the QMJHL preseason. Now of course, the preseason doesn’t necessarily have the highest levels of competition, but I’m more interested in the shot mechanics here.
Bobby Orr scored two shorthanded goals on the same penalty kill the other night. Here's one of them. pic.twitter.com/eTJ5G6j9TH— Canes Prospects (@CanesProspects) August 29, 2021
This is likely one the goalie wants back. Sure, it’s a quick wrist shot that is well placed, but it should be stopped from that distance. However, Orr does a good job of changing the angle of the puck right before he shoots, making it tougher for the goalie to react. It’s subtle and it gives Orr the slightest amount of separation from the defender in order to get the shot off. Now look at this clip, which is what I’d call a perfectly placed shot.
And the other shorthanded goal from Orr, a pinpoint accurate shot from a tough angle. pic.twitter.com/iihu9WsprD— Canes Prospects (@CanesProspects) August 29, 2021
This is a beautiful goal for a couple of reasons. The quick reaction to the dump in allows Orr to take off, losing the defender and firing a perfect shot upstairs for his second goal on the same penalty kill.
Orr’s passing is average and I see him more as a grinding scoring threat more than a passer at the NHL level. Orr could prove me wrong on this, though. While he doesn’t make any fantastic passes, all of his passes seem to find their mark and lead to scoring chances. He sees the ice at an above average to elite level, meaning that he could develop into a playmaker over the course of his time in the QMJHL. As of right now, He’s more of a gifted scorer with the potential for more on the playmaking side of things.
Orr plays in a similar way to Brock McGinn in the offensive zone. He’ll seek opportunities to keep the puck in the zone, win board battles, score timely goals and be an absolute pain to play against. They’re not carbon copies of each other, but Orr definitely fits the system the Hurricanes have in place.
I’ve touched on a lot of what makes Orr such an effective defender. He’s reliable and can be used on the penalty kill due to his defensive play. Very few QMJHL forwards are as mature as Orr is in the defensive zone, and while Orr isn’t a perfect player, he’s further along than most of the players in his age group. Part of this has to do with how aggressive he is in the defensive zone. He’ll pressure forwards into making mistakes or taking the puck along the boards, where he’ll hit them off of the puck and change possession. Again, the aggressiveness and ability to create turnovers is another reason why I see similarities between Orr and McGinn.
Orr isn’t as polished as he needs to be in the defensive zone and there are times when he does get a little lost. He can lag behind the play and go through the motions, which usually results in a goal. I wouldn’t call it lazy, but I would like to see Orr play at a high pace in the defensive zone a little more often. Other than that, there’s not a lot to dislike about Orr in the defensive zone. Once he adds some muscle he’ll be tougher to play against along the boards and he’ll knock players off of the puck on a more consistent basis. Orr should be able to play on an NHL penalty kill and would be a great fit for Carolina’s “Power Kill.”
Orr’s skating and tenacity on the forecheck should propel him to the NHL. Teams need players that can wear down a defense and force them to make stupid mistakes. Orr can be that player for the Hurricanes down the road. He possesses a heck of a shot and could be a third line scoring threat for the Hurricanes, too. Orr fell to the fifth round because his upside can be questionable. Sure, a player with his two way skills is intriguing, but will he be enough of an offensive force to warrant top nine minutes? That’s the biggest question. His playmaking is average and while he plays at a high pace in the offensive zone, the fact of the matter is Orr might only be good for 30 or so points at the NHL level. Still, there’s value in that and the Hurricanes picked a potential NHL player in the fifth round.
With the way Orr plays, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has one of the longer NHL careers out of the Hurricanes’ 2021 draft class. Teams are always looking for a player like him. Hell, Brock McGinn has played in 345 NHL games doing a lot of what Orr can do for teams in the future. Orr may take some time to develop because there are a few areas of his game that are raw and unpolished. He could stand to improve his playmaking and I believe that he could use some work on odd man rushes. His defensive play is above average for the QMJHL but there are some aspects of his defensive game that could be improved upon. Still, if the Hurricanes are willing to wait four or five years for Orr to develop, they could be looking at a nice addition to the team’s top nine. And Bobby Orr will look to carve a path of his own as number eight for the Carolina Hurricanes.