FlamesNation Prospect Profile: #7 Brandon Hickey

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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:

  1. He’s willing to lay down his body, which is excellent news, and,
  2. 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.

QUOTABLE

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

  • clib542

    This is has got to be one of our more exciting prospects because the timing of his development could be perfect. If he tracks even close to Brodie, we will have a pretty interesting scenario in 2-3 years with him, Kylington & Andersson all vying for a spot on the team. & we would still have Hamilton/Gio & Brodie forming half of a formidable top 6.

    Seeing Smid is coming along & hoping to be ready for training camp. Oh oh, now what??

    • RedMan

      glad to hear about Smid

      seems like a good human being and a real team guy. Hope he does get better and pushes the competition at camp.

      If Smid comes off the books, I hope it’s because the GM moves him, not because his injury permanently ends his career.

  • BurningSensation

    I can still clearly recall what it was like when Mitch Wahl was our lone bright light prospect.

    This feels soooooo much better.

    If Bennett, Hickey, MacDonald AND Smith all make the NHL (which now looks like a geunine possibility) the Flames will have overperformed at the draft in a big, big way.

    It was only a couple of years ago that Wotherspoon was our only serious defense prospect (the injuries to Seiloff, and low ceiling on Ramage, leaving T-Spoon all by himself), and now we have; Hickey, Kyllington, Andersson,
    Morrisson, Wotherspoon, Culkin, hell, even Kanzig, coming down the pipe.

    Sooooo much better.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Mitch Wahl and John Negrin. Injured into an eternity in the minors.

      I love Hickey as a prospect. Should have a decent chance at being on Team Canada this WJC, and I’m actually hopeful he might transition to pro as soon as the 16-17 season.

      • McRib

        I understand what you are saying (not the same type of player), but Brandon Hickey does have a great shot!!! He had 115 shots on goal last year and wasn’t even being played as a power play triggerman, which he will be next season.

        Brandon Hickey is easily the 4th best prospect in the Flames organization for me this ranking is waaayyy toooooo low!! What he did as a true freshman is highly impressive, as is the case with Mark Jankowski I think people really underestimate how mature of a league the NCAA has become with more and more players spending time in the USHL past high school graduation the last couple of years. 8 of 12 Hockey East Teams last year only had one true freshman or less (4 with none). Hickey’s coach at BU for all intensive purposes compared him to Kevin Shattenkirk and said he will be a 15+ year NHLer. Brandon Hickey is going to be a Top. 4 defender with first pairing upside in my opinion. Bennett, Gillies, Poirier are the only prospects in the organization I would have ranked over Hickey at this time and as soon as next year he could be behind only Bennett for me.

        Hickey is built out of the same mould as Duncan Keith, TJ Brodie where his entire game is just starting to catch up to his feet at this age. Duncan Keith had 15 points as a true freshman for Michigan State playing in the same second pairing situation as Brandon Hickey who had 17 points. Don’t get me wrong I know he has a ways to go to become a Duncan Keith, but he is the same type of player following the same trajectory. If he joins Red Deer half way through this season, it will be eerily similar to Keith joining Kelowna. Haha.

  • jeremywilhelm

    I take it Kanzig is outside the top 20.

    That leaves the following:
    Olas-Mattsson
    Klimchuk
    Kylington
    Andersson
    Bennett
    Gillies
    Poirier

    Elson is probably too far down on the list, and Granlund is probably no longer considered a prospect.

    Wonder where Sven would fit in if still here. 🙂