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Local teen skates alongside Avalanche idols at training camp

18-year-old Jack O'Brien hails from Highlands Ranch and called it "surreal" to be skating with the likes of Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Avalanche didn't have have to go too far to find one of its training camp rookies this fall.

Jack O'Brien hails from Highlands Ranch, and the 18-year-old has his own local fan club. 

"I got a little goosebump just now when you asked the question, so that right there tells you how much it means. It's really neat seeing him do it here. He has a long way to go, but we're super proud of all of the work," Karen O'Brien, Jack's mom, told 9NEWS. 

Jack played peewee hockey for the Littleton Hawks before playing for Krivo School of Hockey and the sport runs in the family.

"It means so much to me and I know he's worked so hard for this. Seeing him live out his dream right now, especially at home locally, it's just been an incredible journey," said Jack's sister, Sarah, who's a sophomore defenseman at St. Mary's University in Minnesota.

Wearing the Burgundy and Blue is nothing new, Jack's been doing it for 18 years.

"I've been growing up watching these guys so it's a pretty surreal feeling to be around (Nathan) MacKinnon and (Gabriel) Landeskog and all of those elite players. It's incredible," Jack said. 

And he's even test-driven a few of the famous numbers. 

"I don't know how much he did see Joe Sakic play, but he sure heard his dad and uncle talk a lot about Sakic, so he came in as (No.) 19, and then he eventually graduated to 92 with Landeskog," Paul O'Brien, Jack's dad, said. 

Even for Jack, it's all a bit unbelievable.

"It's crazy that I'm skating with a guy and he's the reason that I'm the number that I am in juniors. It's a little weird and surreal but it's unreal and I love it," Jack said. 

The O'Brien clan is more than just a cheering section. They've been both kids' biggest support systems throughout their entire careers. 

"You know, through this journey, you have to be careful that you don't get too high or too low because you're on top of the world one second because your kid has a great game. You just got to stay level and make sure that everyone is enjoying it," Paul said. 

"As hockey parents, we just have to make sure that the kids are having fun and encourage them to have fun and stay as level as we can.," Karen said. 

Jack now plays for the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League. He has one final year of NHL Entry Level Draft eligibility and knows his family has helped him get this far.

"They've given me every opportunity possible in hockey and they've just gone all in to support my dreams and it's just incredible to have parents like that," Jack said. 

Despite his home ice advantage, O'Brien entered camp as the youngest skater -- and had to stand out in some capacity. 

"I'm not a dominant skater like Landeskog or MacKinnon, so I just want to show them that I have qualities -- I'm only 18 -- so once I get into a bigger body and grow, that I still have those hardworking mentalities going to the rink each day. Plus, I just love being on the ice, I love shooting pucks, I just love hockey a lot, so I love staying on the ice," Jack said. 

O'Brien was cut by the Avalanche on Monday and returned to Portland to be with Winterhawks, but the NHL remains a real possibility down the road. 

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