Brandon Hickey had an interesting season last year.
On one hand, the 2014 Calgary Flames third round selection completed his sophomore season with the Boston University Terriers and made an appearance at the World Junior Championship with Team Canada – an acknowledgement of his superb skill and strong placement relative to the other blueliners in his age group. (And it’s fairly rare for a bunch of Canadian Hockey League coaches to bring along a player from the NCAA, so it’s a big deal.)
On the other hand, the Terriers failed to repeat the success of their 2014-15 season where they went to the NCAA championship final, and Hickey himself saw his offensive totals cut in half from his freshman year.
We chatted with the Drew Doughty lookalike (he has shaggy hair and a Doughty-esque beard now) during Flames development camp.
“I felt like I played really well
the first half,” said Hickey. “The second half, the whole not having Christmas break affected me a little bit and was a little bit worn down. With all the
lifting and skating we do at school, I kinda let that creep into my
game and fatigue. But this year I’m gonna come in in even better
shape, I’ll work on my conditioning and work on my play.”
Hickey’s drawn praise for his excellent skating and mobility, as well as his devotion to play sound defensive hockey. As the hype surrounding his play grows, Flames fans have engaged in the predictable hand-wringing over when he’s going to sign with the club and leave college. Hickey says he’s taking everything a year at a time, as he has since he was drafted.
“I’ve kind of kept an open mind the
last couple years and I’m planning on doing the exact same,” said Hickey. “I’m gonna
take everything as it comes, don’t wanna get too far ahead of myself,
don’t wanna plan things that might not happen. Just wanna take
everything in stride and focus on how are things going so if the
opportunity does come where I feel like I can leave early and I feel
like I’m comfortable doing that, then I’ll take the opportunity.”
Hickey and his club have some unfinished business, in that they obviously want to get back to the NCAA championship game (and win this time). The Terriers added Dante Fabbro, Kieffer Bellows, Clayton Keller and Chad Krys, among others, during their recruiting and the team could be really strong and really deep next season.
“Obviously it stings a little bit
obviously what happened against Providence a couple years ago and it
kind of sticks with you, you kinda want to go back and get revenge,” said Hickey.
“With the phenomenal freshman class we have coming in this year I
think we can do that exact thing. We can come in, play well, go deep
into the playoffs. Also it’s about the returning guys, too, it’s not
just about the freshmen. We have great returning pieces, we have some
great goaltending, great defensemen and great forwards.”
Hickey’s attitude is probably the right one to have right now; he didn’t have an amazing season last year and it’d likely be best for him to go pro with a bit of momentum. And if he had turned pro, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious opening within the pro system for him to play. But following this season, the contracts of NHLers Ladislav Smid, Deryk Engelland and Dennis Wideman are expiring (as are the deals for AHLers Kenney Morrison, Ryan Culkin and Brett Kulak).
With the possible (and let’s face it, downright likely) graduations of a few AHL bodies to those open NHL jobs in 2017-18, the sales pitch to get Hickey to sign on the dotted line will likely become a lot more enticing after his junior year. If Hickey and Boston University have a strong season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him turn pro as soon as this spring.