Continuing with FlamesNation’s ongoing prospect profile series, at number seven, we’ve gone with a kid the Flames rescued from the scourge of being an Oilers fan: Brandon Hickey.
The Flames sure got around in the 2014 draft. First, they had a can’t miss prospect; then, a Q goalie and an O giant. After that, they turned to home, but not to the W – to the AJHL.
Former AJHL defender or no, Hickey has done a lot over the year since he’s been drafted to rise up through the ranks, and have people really looking at him as a player with a good future. Who says you need major junior?
From the lesser-known AJHL to a league many hockey fans are familiar with: the NCAA. While in previous years, Flames fans were Boston College fans thanks to Johnny Gaudreau, now, we’ve crossed the aisle of rivalry. Brandon Hickey committed to Boston University, and in his first season, he proved himself worthy of the league.
In his draft season in the AJHL, Hickey had four goals and 22 points over 49 games; in his freshman year in the NCAA, he had six goals and 17 points in 41 games: from .45 points per game to .41 points per game, hardly a drop off considering the increase in league quality.
If nothing else, Hickey is certainly adaptable.
Here’s the bad news: half of his goals and six of his points came on the powerplay, suggesting he needs to improve his performance at even strength. But here’s the good news: he was 18 years old. That improvement at even strength? That will come with time and growth, and he still has a few college years yet left to play.
Just one thing, though: they’ll be college years without Jack Eichel, who, it should be no surprise, was the top player in the NCAA this past season. And while Boston University will no doubt suffer for its loss of Eichel, Hickey may not.
A grand total of four of Hickey’s 17 points in his freshman year had Eichel involved in them. Two of his goals – both at even strength – were Eichel-assisted, and Hickey assisted on two of Eichel’s own. In other words: Hickey was not dependent on the best player in the NCAA to score.
For a freshman defenceman, that’s an extremely good sign. It means there’s almost certainly more to come, and regression may not be inevitable; regression may be entirely irrelevant in Hickey’s case.
Here’s another nice little tidbit: Hickey was sixth out of all Hockey East defenceman with 2.80 shots per game. He was the top freshman defenceman on the list, ahead of 2015 fifth overall pick Noah Hanifin. He had 115 shots on the year in all, tied for fourth out of all Hockey East defenders.
And for you Kris Russell fans, Hickey led all Hockey East defenders in blocked shots, with 91 total. This indicates two things:
- He’s willing to lay down his body, which is excellent news, and,
- He needs to get out of the defensive zone more – something that should improve with time.
So Hickey is a leader on both ends of the ice: he’ll both get pucks on the net, and he works hard to prevent them from reaching his own.
All that in his first season on a college team that made it all the way to the championship game, and there’s so much to love about him. He’s already been compared to TJ Brodie, and for good reason: his skating is excellent, and he’s confident in his own zone.
Over the course of just one season, Hickey has gone from a third round pick from a lower league to being in demand for Team Canada. He was invited to the team’s summer showcase, where he scored one goal on one shot over the two games he played in, while being used primarily in a defensive role.
More and more, Hickey is looking like a sleeper pick that’s going to have an extremely bright future ahead of him at the professional level: just another reason to compare him to Brodie.
It’s going to be extremely interesting to see how well Boston University performs next season – and what kind of role Hickey takes on in his second year.
Very underrated freshman year lost behind all the pub to Eichel and the rest of that prolific offense. There were times where Hickey was one of BU’s best defenseman, and that’s on a unit along with some guys who will certainly be NHL players. The biggest thing with Hickey, IMO, is just size. If he adds 20 pounds of muscle and gets stronger because of it, he’s an all-out force at the NCAA level. He’s listed at 6-1, 190. If that’s 6-1, 210, he’s probably in pro hockey now and readying for an NHL career. He’s a good skater and even with 17 points last season, I think he’s better in his own end but he’s good enough in transition. He has a lot of tools that I think they’re still trying to put all together, but the potential is there for an outstanding player. Strength and size is the biggest thing for him, which is why I think college hockey works for him. It was the same for Mike Matheson at BC a few years ago. Less games means more time in the weight room.
– Mike McMahon, College Hockey News