FlamesNation Prospect Profile: #10 Brandon Hickey

FN10

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.

Read more: FlamesNation Player Evaluations: Brandon Hickey

Quotables

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.

“Fabbro,
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.

Read more: Brandon Hickey has unfinished business in college

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.

Read more: Why Brandon Hickey probably won’t sign this summer

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.

Previously

#20Ryan Culkin #19Linus Lindstrom
#18Morgan Klimchuk #17Mason McDonald
#16Brett Pollock #15Matthew Phillips
#14Dillon Dube #13Emile Poirier
#12Brett Kulak #11Mark Jankowski
    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      I have to agree with your sentiments. Poirier has, in the past, shown why we chose him over Shinkaruk. He is a pest, can skate like the wind, and has converted.

      Here’s to hoping that both Poirier and Hickey get back to what we have seen previously.

    • Prototype369

      Didn’t we draft poirier because he had a wicked shot and speed that enabled him to get off that shot? And then in Stockton we tried to make him a 200 foot winger, basically Steen 2.0, and now everyone thinks he’s a bust. Whereas I honestly believe he has the ceiling of a second line winger. A good second line winger

      • jupiter

        I doubt everyone thinks he’s a bust. I call it the Baertschi factor. Burke wanted to make sure he didn’t repeat the mistake of calling out Sven for his inability to play in all 3 zones. It looks to me like he instructed the GM to make sure that every prospect was highly schooled on defense.WW calls it “Huska”d”.It will be interesting to see if Gulutzan has any influence on Huska’s defined role.

        Huska’s military style does appear to suck the life out of a creative player.

        I,too think Poirier could be a good second liner.

        • Prototype369

          Huska was very good in terms of following the system that the NHL club, namely the flames were using, so that in the case of a call up, the prospect wouldn’t flail about. I understand the need for that for most players, but a first rounder is a first rounder. I know poirier is no monahan or Bennett, but he was an elite goal scorer in the Q, and were short on high scoring right wingers, so the need to completely change his game to a very responsible and cautious game was a failing in my eyes. Hopefully Gulutzan is more in favor of working to your strengths, and poirier’s strengths are his shot, speed and tenacity. Shinkaruk and Poirier both deserve a call up, and regular time on the flames.

  • Azim

    Do you guys remember Jordan Leopold during the ’03-04 season? Before he got dealt to Colorado in the Tanguay deal, and before injuries took their toll? I could see Hickey being a Leopold type of player, only hopefully with a lot longer more sustained peak period.

    Good size, great skating (probably faster than what I remember Leopold being), solid defensively, and with the ability to contribute offensively in a secondary role. Perhaps Leopold, and not Brodie, are where we should temper our expectations for Hickey.

    And really, having ’03-04 version of Leopold on any team should be welcome. Especially when you already have a top-3 that the Flames currently have.

    • piscera.infada

      And really, having ’03-04 version of Leopold on any team should be welcome. Especially when you already have a top-3 that the Flames currently have.

      Minus “high and wide”, of course.

  • The Fall

    Any prospect with disappointing results when asked to step-up, or when facing tougher completion has ‘wash-out’ written on the walls.

    8 points after a full season (36 games) in the NCAA does not scream high level professional prospect. …And Hickey is ranked above a point per game rookie in the WHL…?!

    I seriously need someone to point to some stat or video or cohort that makes these numbers worth a top 10 prospect ranking.

    • Burnward

      It’s not about the scoring with this kid that excites people.

      Elite skating, solid IQ, decent shot. But he seems to really think the defensive side of the game well.

      Personally, I think he’ll be Hamilton’s ideal partner in three years.

      • piscera.infada

        To piggy-back on this, I actually thought Hickey looked very good at the world juniors, as well. The only thing that really held him back were some bizarre coaching decisions. The pairing of Hickey and McKeown showed flashes of their mobility and puck moving prowess, but Lowry gave them virtually no assignments that catered to this style of play until the very end of the final game against Finland. Instead, he opted to play them as a de facto shut-down pairing. They played well in that role, but they definitely appeared visibly restrained at times–they could have been used better, as could a number of other players on that roster.

        Hickey is still a great prospect for this organisation.

          • piscera.infada

            No doubt. What’s strange though, is that it actually worked (as much as one could hope, anyway). Hickey-McKeown were trusted on the PK and defensive zone starts, and they were the most consistent pairing on Canada’s blue-line. Problem is, the second the got the puck into the opposing team’s zone, they were short-shifted. It made no sense because they both generated a good amount of shots from the back-end as well. It was simply those hockey Canada politics (cough*Dermott*cough*Leafs*cough).