Photo Credit: courtesy Calgary Flames/NHL Media

Hickey Watch begins as Frozen Four brackets set

This past weekend featured an annual rite in the college hockey world: Selection Sunday. The 16 teams slated for participation in the annual Frozen Four tournament were set and two Calgary Flames prospects will take part in this year’s event. One of them may be participating for the final time.

Headed to The Dance

Making his first appearance in the Frozen Four is 2016 third round pick Adam Fox, taking part with the Harvard Crimson. Harvard won the ECAC conference this past weekend and is one of four top seeds in the Frozen Four. They open the tournament against a team that’s familiar to Flames fans: the Providence College Friars, the team that produced Jon Gillies and Mark Jankowski. They play Friday afternoon in Providence, with the winner playing in the regional final on Saturday.

Possibly making his final appearance is 2014 third round pick Brandon Hickey, representing the Boston University Terriers. They’ll face a stiff test in the Fargo region, playing the super strong North Dakota Fighting Hawks on Friday – y’know, the one that features Brock Boeser and Tyson Jost. The Terriers are similarly stacked but this game should be very nuts. The winner moves on to Saturday’s regional final.

Hickey Watch

So here’s the deal with Hickey: If Boston University loses on Friday (or Saturday), there’s a strong probability that the Flames make him a contract offer. He’s played three seasons in the NCAA and, particularly on a really deep B.U. roster, it’s probably best for his development if he moves to the pro level where the Flames can be more hands-on with him (and where he can get more meaningful ice time).

The specifics of the deal could be interesting. He’ll be 21 years old next month, so under the terms of the CBA he’ll be signed to a three-year entry-level deal. But there are two immediate options available to him:

  • The Jon Gillies Route: sign and immediately burn a year of the deal by joining the Flames for their playoff run (even though the odds are against him actually playing a game).
  • The Mark Jankowski Route: sign and immediately also sign an amateur try-out (ATO) deal with the Stockton Heat so that he can finish out the year in the AHL and delay the entry-level deal starting until the fall.

The difference between the two paths is leverage. Gillies was a player coming off back-stopping his team to an NCAA championship victory. His stock was never higher. Jankowski had less leverage, as the Flames would have received a compensatory second round pick had he not signed. While Hickey’s stock isn’t as high as Gillies’, he’s still a highly-touted prospect within the organization and they wouldn’t get any kind of compensation if he went back to college for another year (similar to Gillies’ situation) and potentially elected to become a free agent upon graduation.

All the available information suggests that the Flames want Hickey to sign as much as he wants to sign, so it’s likely that they meet somewhere in the middle. What that probably means in practice is a deal that’s a little bit heavier on performance bonuses than it would be otherwise (as a carrot to dangle in order to get him to sign a deal a bit more favourable to the Flames), but one that also probably sees Hickey join Stockton for their stretch drive.