The 2014 NHL draft looked great, mostly because the Flames got Sam Bennett out of it. Once you delve past the first round, though, the shine on it fades… well, a fair amount.
The second best player the Flames selected out of that draft may have been their third round pick, Brandon Hickey. However, after adding his name to the conversation of defence prospects to look forward to, Hickey appears to have taken a step back in his sophomore year.
After posting six goals and 17 points through 41 games with the Boston University Terriers as a freshman, Hickey dropped to just five goals and only eight points through 36 games in his second year of NCAA hockey. However, it should be noted one of his goals was on the powerplay, and another was an empty netter.
The Terriers were knocked out of the NCAA tournament in the regional semifinals by a score of 7-2 by Denver; Hickey went pointless in the game.
There was one other tournament Hickey played in: the World Juniors, as he became the first player out of the NCAA Team Canada selected since Jaden Schwartz back in 2012. Unfortunately, the tournament didn’t go well: not for Team Canada, as they finished in sixth place, and not for Hickey, who went pointless through five games and was used in an exclusively defensive role.
He wasn’t perfect in that tournament, but he wasn’t the problem, either. And while he may have deserved more of a chance than he got, there may have been good reason for him to not get one, anyway.
Impact on team
Hickey’s perceived decline likely isn’t entirely on him. In his freshman year, the Terriers were first place in Hockey East with the aid of leading scorer Jack Eichel; this season, Eichel graduated to the NHL and the Terriers fell to fifth place. In 2014-15, the Terriers had six players with at least 30 points; in 2015-16, only three players had those numbers.
That doesn’t account for all of Hickey’s decline, though. Take a look at the points comparisons between Terriers defencemen last season, and this one:
(It should be noted Ahti Oksanen is listed as both a forward and a defenceman.)
In his freshman year Hickey was fourth in Terriers defencemen scoring, and just one point back of being third. In his sophomore year, he was sixth in defencemen scoring: five points back of fifth, and 14 points back of fourth. While he wasn’t the only Terrier to decline, some still put together strong years.
It wasn’t just points where Hickey declined. In his 2014-15 season he had 115 shots on goal: 2.8 per game, third on the team behind Ahti Oksanen and Matt Grzelyck; Gryzelck only had six shots more.
In 2015-16 Hickey fell to just 84 shots over 36 games, falling to 2.3 per game. But! When you exclude Oksanen, he led all Terrier defencemen in shots by at least 14.
What comes next?
Hickey’s apparent decline this past season isn’t desirable, but it’s not as though it happened in a vacuum. His plummet in points is certainly concerning, but the fact he was still trying to create, maybe more than most on the Terriers’ blueline, does bring a ray of light to what was otherwise a discouraging season.
And it’s not as though Hickey is needed immediately. He’s played two years of college; he likely has at least one more season, possibly two, still to play in the NCAA. Hiccups happen – and Hickey’s junior year should give us a better idea of if 2015-16 was cause for concern, or just a blip on the radar in his development.