Why Brandon Hickey probably won’t sign this summer

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)

Player
Cap Hit
Age
Waivers?
NHL GP
Shoots
Dennis Wideman $5,250,000 33 Yes 758 Right
Mark Giordano $6,750,000 32 Yes 583 Left
Ladislav Smid $3,500,000 30 Yes 583 Left
Deryk Engelland $2,917,000 34 Yes 381 Right
T.J. Brodie $4,650,000 26 Yes 327 Left
Dougie Hamilton $5,750,000 23 Yes 251 Right
Jyrki Jokipakka $900,000 25 Yes 102 Left
Brett Kulak $817,000 22 No 7 Left
Oliver Kylington $925,000 19 No 0 Left
Rasmus Andersson $925,000 19 No 0 Right
Keegan Kanzig $863,000 21 No 0 Left
Patrick Sieloff $894,000 22 No 0 Left
Ryan Culkin $817,000 22 No 0 Left
Kenney Morrison $925,000 24 No 0 Right

OTHER POTENTIALS

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
2016.

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.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    It’s probalby good for both player and team that Hickey wait another year. Smid, Engeland and Wideman are all of the books next year and the Flames need to determine what they have in guys like Sieloff and Culkin. Maybe the Kanzig experiment will end then as well.

  • freethe flames

    What’s the rush for him? With the current depth in the organization(young guys) giving him a chance to develop on someone else’s dime makes sense. Go back to College young man it will be good for you.

    I would really like to see Mattsson brought over. Also if the Flames don’t sign Nakkaddy and TSpoon I would disapponted. That pairing has been the best 3rd pairing we have had in awhile.

    I always wonder if we will ever see any of the potential from Sieloff; first a significant injury and then that horrific Staph infection.( having had Staph I know how sick he likely was) He is probably just this season fully recovered. Good luck to the young man.

  • Burnward

    Make sense for next year?

    NHL

    Gio, Brodie, Hamilton, Pakka, Nakka, Wotherspoon, Engellend

    AHL

    Kulak, Kylington, Andersson, Culkin, Sieloff, Morrison, Kanzig,

    Gone:

    Wideman, Smid

    • Stu Cazz

      Not bad! As much as I would like to see Wideman gone this summer I do not see it until the trade deadline where depending on need I think the Flames can get at least a 2nd rounder for him…..

    • Kevin R

      I actually thought Engellend has played pretty good this year & has stepped up playing 20+ minutes since Wideman has been out & Rusty got traded. Engellend isn’t a 2nd pairing guy & he is overpaid on the bottom pairing. But I think he can be moved for a modest return to a team like Arizona. Maybe get a 4th or 5th rounder & move out 2.9 mill off the books. That would allow Kulak to rotate in & out as our #7. & I think Hickey could compete for a spot in Stockton. I don’t like his development curve in College. If he has similar results next year, he won’t even be invited to the WJC camp. Maybe it’s time to package him in a deal while his potential is still pretty high. Would Hickey & Janko get Yzermans attention for Drouin? Maybe add one of our 2nd’s too? I would do that to see if a motivated Drouin prove Tampa wrong & then hopefully our top 3 pick at this years draft :-} give us potential to fill 2 of our top 6 positions.

      • wot96

        Too old for another wjc call.

        I don’t think Hickey and Janko and a 2d are enough for Drouin from Yzerman’s perspective and I wouldn’t do it anyway (just don’t like Drouin).

        Let Hickey develop in school and if he needs a year in the AHL, so be it. The Flames now look like the D pipeline is pretty full, which is good, but don’t give up on any of the prospects prematurely. Plus, they just don’t really have the contract spaces to sign Hickey without giving up on another player.

  • MattyFranchise

    Let him stay in school and play there. There should be no rush to sign him with so many question marks already in the system. He could use the ice time and experience.

    Another thing that I haven’t seen mentioned is that once he signs a pro contract, even so much as a pro tryout, his college career is over. He can’t go back to the NCAA.

    If I was the organization (not to mention what his parents would say) I would advise him to stay in school. No sense in him giving up on his education to ride the bus in the AHL/ECHL.

  • KACaribou

    Hickey is so far from earning a roster spot on the Flames it isn’t funny. Whatever he does I wish him well, but it will make little difference which direction he goes. He needs years of improvement.

    • Stu Cazz

      Here is the positive spin towards your negative view of Hickey….The kid is only 19 years old. If the Flames ultimately decide to sign him he will have plenty of opportunity to develop in the AHL. His great skating and puck handling abilities are a great start to his early development particularly in the difficult position of ‘D’ man….

      • KACaribou

        Thanks for confirming everything I said. Although I had nothing bad to say about Hickey. He’s just going to be a few years before he ever gets to the Flames. Anyone who thinks any of the young D-men in our system are on the verge are expressing youthful exuberance.

  • everton fc

    Culkin, Morrison, Kanzig and Sieloff may prove to be bad signings. True, Culkin has been injured, so he may have been worth the dollars and cents, but the latter three…

    I guess Morrison came w/high-regard. And hindsight’s always 20/20…

    As for Engelland, he was more valuable on this team, this season, than Wideman and Russell. That’s my take. He’s an ideal #7 guy to have around, albeit at the current price-tag. Look how cool, calm and collected Kulak was, paired w/Engelland. That can’t be brushed off as luck.