One of the most interesting Flames prospects in the pool, Brandon Hickey came out of the gates earning comparisons to T.J. Brodie. This year, we tempered our expectations, placing him at #10, three spots down from #7 last year.
What happened? Let’s find out after the jump.
A brief history
Hickey has been with the Flames org since he was selected with the 64th pick in the 2014 draft. A stalwart on the Spruce Grove Saints’ (AJHL) blueline during his draft year, Hickey headed east to Boston University to play with the Terriers.
He immediately began turning heads. In his freshman season, he put up 17 points on a Jack Eichel-led team that won the Hockey East title and went all the way to the National Championship, losing to the Providence Friars in the end (probably because they had more Flames prospects).
This year, the Terriers lost their superstar. With that, Hickey was expected to be one of the many players to step up in his absence, and he did. Through the first 16 games of the season, he scored seven points.
Then came the World Juniors. You can read in longer detail about Hickey’s performances with Team Canada here, here, here, here, and here, but I’ll give you the CliffsNotes version. What scouts praise Hickey for was on display at the WJC: his svelte skating, his powerful shot (plus his desire to keep taking them), and his hockey IQ both on offence and defence.
What was disappointing was the results. Due to bad luck and/or momentary lapses, Hickey’s results were less than desirable. He took a lot of shots, but scored zero points. His most memorable moments were unfortunately opposition goals. The majority of the time Hickey was on the ice, he was perhaps one of Canada’s better defenders. But when he slipped up, it was quite obvious.
Read more: Checking in on Brandon Hickey
Some bad mojo carried over from the WJC, because Hickey only scored one point in his remaining 20 games with BU. Maybe it was the international travel, maybe it was just bad luck. The Terriers finished the season being washed out of the Hockey East tournament in the second round, and losing in an unceremonious blowout to Denver in the first round of the Frozen Four.
Flames’ Player Development Coach Ray Edwards:
“There’s a million nuances of playing defence and defending without the puck. One of the reasons he made the World Junior team last year was his ability to defend. And you talk about a competitive guy, this guy is a competitive guy, and you couple that with his ability to skate. He can close ice as quickly as anybody I’ve seen.
“Do we project Brandon to be a top offensive-producing guy? I don’t think he’s going to be a top-10 point-producing defenceman in the NHL. Can he be a good secondary power-play producing defenceman? Absolutely, he can.”
Edwards also noted that they want Hickey to reach an All-American level as a defenceman, improve on his offensive production, and become able to defend against bigger players. He said that the WJC was good for Hickey, as he gained confidence from playing against the best.
Mike McMahon, collegehockeynews.com:
“This is going to be a pivotal year for Hickey, in my opinion. He’s
on a blue line that already includes Charlie McAvoy and BU is adding
Chad Krys and Dante Fabbro to the mix as well. There is so much talent
on BU’s blue line that Brandon Fortunato, who played for USA’s WJC team
last year, he decided to leave BU and transfer, worried about ice time.
Fortunato is in a bit of a different situation, though. He’s undrafted
and needs to put himself in position for a UFA contract if he wants to
play in the NHL. Getting lost in the shuffle at BU could have destroyed
his chances. He’s probably looking for a spot where he is more
guaranteed top four minutes and PP time.
McAvoy and Krys are likely going to occupy three of the four D spots on
BU’s PP, and that leaves Hickey fighting it out with Doyle Somerby, most
likely, for the last spot. BU also has John MacLeod, a TB
second-rounder (Somerby is NYI property). BU is also adding Vasili
Kolias to the defence, who had a solid season with Youngstown in the
USHL last season.
“But back to Hickey … this
is a big year for him because there is going to be a LOT of competition
for ice and PP time at BU. Hickey has been a solid D-man for BU since
arriving two years ago, but he runs the risk of being squeezed out of
his role this season if he doesn’t continue to find ways to develop his
game. It’s the very reason, in my opinion, that Fortunato decided to transfer.”
What comes next?
Hickey will likely bounce back next year. His unfortunate luck following the World Juniors will probably not follow him into next year.
Tracking Hickey from 2014-15 to 2015-16, we can see some consistency and maybe even some positives. He is still shooting at least two shots per game (a minor fall: from 2.80 to 2.33, though he was taking 2.75 S/G before the WJC). Although he only scored eight points, six of them were primary and five of those were at even strength. HIckey’s skills didn’t show in the stats this year, but hopefully he can bounce back.
He also still needs to take a step forward. I feel most are willing to write off this past year as really unfortunate, but the bar is still high for Hickey. I feel a successful season for him would be hitting the 0.5 PPG mark, and perhaps providing enough of a case to win an ATO with the Heat at the end of the year.
The Terriers are going to have a stacked blueline this fall. With Brandon Fortunato leaving, Hickey will have an easier shot at a top role on the team. However, he will have to compete with 2016 first rounders Charlie McAvoy and Dante Fabbro for ice time. If he doesn’t wind up with a top spot on the team, it’s going to be a major concern.
|#20 – Ryan Culkin||#19 – Linus Lindstrom|
|#18 – Morgan Klimchuk||#17 – Mason McDonald|
|#16 – Brett Pollock||#15 – Matthew Phillips|
|#14 – Dillon Dube||#13 – Emile Poirier|
|#12 – Brett Kulak||#11 – Mark Jankowski|