Brandon Hickey has tumbled out of the NCAA tournament and (hopefully soon) into the hands of the Calgary Flames.
The 2014 fourth round pick has been earmarked since draft day as a potential future stud, and had a promising draft +1 year. He slipped in year two, which raised some concern. Has he been good enough in year three to redeem himself? Let’s find out.
Elaborating on what I said above, Hickey began his career as a standout AJHLer headed to a prestigious hockey school (who had the number one recruiting grab that year with Jack Eichel). He made everyone pay attention with a surprising 17-point effort, way above his freshman expectations. BU reached the NCAA finals, just losing to Providence.
In his second season, Hickey looked to pick up where he left off. The first step was being an early shoo-in for Team Canada’s World Juniors team. Heading into that tournament, he had seven points in 17 NCAA games.
Then he had some sort of hangover, because he scored only one point in the next 19 games. The end of the season was nearly a disaster for Hickey, who saw his offence dry up, finishing with just eight points and a hasty exit in the NCAA tournament.
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So he was better than last year, but he still fell just short of his first year production (although six fewer games played). He was mostly consistent with respects to scoring, and didn’t really fall into major droughts or bursts.
The more concerning matter is that his shot totals dropped again, falling from 84 to 67. Just a reminder, he had 115 shots in his first year.
However, relative to his team, Hickey was still third in defensive scoring and third in defensive shooting. He wasn’t even lagging behind significantly, only nine shots away from first place (three fewer games played). If he got a bit more ice time, he’d probably be a bit closer to Chad Krys and Charlie McAvoy.
Statistically, he was similar to his ranks in his first year. What gives?
From my observances (although limited), it was quite clear that BU was trying to calm down their defence and protect the net. Instead of being the goal scoring juggernauts they were in the past, the Terriers hunkered down and focused on blueline distribution rather than blueline shooting. Defencemen were less responsible for offence, and the team as a whole played a more structured, traditional game.
As a result, BU went from 31st in the nation in goals allowed (106) last year to ninth this year (90), so the coaching staff likely got what they wanted. If it has to come at the expense of Hickey’s statline, then oh well.
While we still haven’t heard about a contract just yet, it will be interesting to see how the Flames want Hickey to develop when he’s in Stockton. Judging by Ray Edwards’ comments way back when, they will like the defensive steps he’s made.
The second question is where he fits. Stockton is an ever-growing mess right now with seven active defencemen, so he’ll have to fight for ice time in the near future. Kenney Morrison came out for Adam Ollas Mattsson, and they still need to make space for Josh Healey. With the playoffs still a realistic goal, why would Stockton want to swap out their trusted defenders for unproven kids? Are club politics really worth it?
The more important part is next season, where Hickey stands a chance of making the big team roster. With the recent overstocking on defence, I’d imagine that the Flames are hoping that a few prospects can fill the holes on the bottom six. It’s plausible that he makes the big team, but I think the more realistic option is some seasoning time in the AHL.