The NCAA national championship tournament kicks off this weekend, with 16 of the top American college teams battling for supremacy. We’ve written a lot about the fate of Providence College senior Mark Jankowski, Calgary’s first round pick in 2012, but we haven’t mused all that much about Boston University’s Brandon Hickey (aside from some detailed thoughts and analysis from your pal Ryan Lambert).
Let’s not mince words: Jankowski’s definitely going pro next season. Hickey? We’re not so sure, because there doesn’t seem to be an obvious spot for him to fit in the Flames pro system.
UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2016-17
(Age is their age on September 15, 2016)
In addition to those 14 (yes, FOURTEEN) previously-signed gentlemen, the Flames have up to four non-Hickey options – two of which already have NHL experience and have looked pretty damn good.
- Tyler Wotherspoon (23, left shot) is a restricted free agent on July 1. He’s a third-pairing option at the NHL level and will require waivers.
- Jakub Nakladal (28, right shot) is an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He’s also a third-pairing option at the NHL level and will require waivers.
- Providence College senior John Gilmour (23, left shot) is finishing up his college career. He’s been a steady offensive contributor in college, though he’s missed some time here and there due to injury.
- Djurgardens blueliner Adam Ollas Mattsson (20, left shot) reportedly has his SHL contract expiring. Due to the wacky European rights set-up in the CBA, the Flames have Ollas Mattsson’s rights until 2018. But given his performance in the World Juniors, maybe the Flames want his combination of size and skill in the AHL.
WHAT’S THE INCENTIVE?
Here’s the big question: aside from cashing in on a signing bonus, what’s the benefit to Hickey of signing after two years of college? The obvious answer is “Hey, he’ll get to play pro.” But considering the Flames have nine left-shooting defenders in the pro system – down to eight in the event Smid’s unavailable or bought out – it’s unlikely that Hickey’s going to play more in the professional ranks than he would at Boston University.
If the choice is between playing in Adirondack or playing a ton at Boston University, who are going to be without Matt Grzelcyk next season, there’s no doubt he’ll get a bigger role in college.
IS HE EVEN READY?
Aside from the lack of actual spots in the pro ranks for him to jump into right away, the other question is whether Hickey (or the organization) feel that he’s ready for the jump from college to professional hockey. Well, to quote Lambert:
I’ve said before that I see Hickey as potentially being in the NHL for a
decade-plus, but now I’m less sure of that. Unless something went wrong
for him (injury, etc.) it’s hard not to be discouraged by his play in
Based on this season, with just eight points (after getting 17 as a freshman), I’m not sure if either camp would want to rush Hickey into the professional ranks without having a strong season before he makes the leap.