Players coming out of the AJHL are few and far between now. It's not the most common place you find success in drafting, as the CHL has become a standard route for making the NHL. With Calgary's history and association with AJHL players, in hindsight it made sense for them to draft Brandon Hickey last year. In the mid-to-late rounds, you're looking for players who are works in progress, and who could end up working out in the long term. Immediate gratification isn't a priority.
In the last few months the 6'2, 190 lb. Hickey is one of the more recent hyped prospects, earning an invite to Team Canada's summer camp, which could yield a roster spot in the World Juniors this winter. Recently at the Flames development camp, he again earned praise from our staff for his TJ Brodie-lite resemblance. ESPN's Corey Pronman recently included him on his Top 100 NHL prospects, placing him 85th overall.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Draft||2014-15 Team||Vote Total|
||64th overall, 2014
||Boston University (NCAA)||76|
The 2012-13 season, Hickey's first full season in the AJHL, did generate some positives. His team, the Spruce Grove Saints, made it all the way to the final, unfortunately falling to Brooks. Hickey represented Team Canada for the first time as part of the WHC U17 tournament, in which he and Canada Pacific won silver after falling to Sweden.
In his second full season in the AJHL, Hickey took a noticeable leap forward in terms of traditional stats and usage. Hickey and the Spruce Grove Saints managed to win the AJHL championship, which was then capped off by being drafted by the Calgary Flames a few months later.
Hickey had initially committed to Boston University for the 2014-15 season, a decision that immediately paid off. The young freshman was third in defensemen scoring on the team, finding playing time in virtually every scenario. The BU Terriers vaulted to the top of the Hockey East standings, winning the regular season and Hockey East championship. The Terriers eventually made their way to the Frozen Four final, falling to Flames prospects Jon Gillies and Mark Jankowski.
Strengths and weaknesses
Much of what makes up Hickey's skill-set was regarded as raw, but since his draft year, he has begun putting it together. Hickey has been shown to be a capable defenseman in his own end, highlighted by sound positioning. His offensive game is yet to be determined despite six goals last season with Boston University. How much of that is repeatable without Jack Eichel on his team is up in the air.
Finally, his skating ability has been highlighted as one of his stronger attributes, something that all defensemen need to have to some degree to be successful now. Getting stronger, rounding out his strengths, and working on outstanding opportunities should make him a daunting defensive threat in his own end.
Future with the Flames
A concurrent trend of some prospects in the organization, who are anywhere from two to four years away, is not knowing a clear vision of where they fit. Several scouts believe that he has some semblance of a future in the NHL. Where that is, and in what role needs to be determined still. Right now, at the very least, he is years away unless he makes a radical leap forward in his development.
Expectations for 2015-16
Hickey is nowhere near ready to make the jump to any professional league at this point. Boston University is going to be without Eichel this fall, which will require everyone to step up. Between hopefully recreating success the team had last season, Hickey is a hopeful for the Team Canada WJC roster this winter. If he makes the squad then he has a great opportunity to showcase himself on a world stage.
Earlier on the list
#25 - Ryan Culkin // #24 - Hunter Smith // #23 - Pavel Karnaukhov // #22 - Garnet Hathaway // #21 - Kenny Agostino// #20 - Mark Jankowski // #19 - Bill Arnold // #18 - Kenney Morrison // #17 - Andrew Mangiapane // T-#14 - Mason McDonald