Spruce Grove Saints defenceman Brandon Hickey was one of just three AJHL players to be named to the NHL Central Scouting watch list for the 2014 NHL Draft.
The 17-year-old from Leduc has five points in just 11 games this season, well on his way to topping the seven points in 55 games he recorded for the Saints last year.
At six-foot-two and 180 lbs., with great skating ability, Hickey has the measurables that scouts are looking for in a d-man, which will make him a hot commodity in the NHL Draft.
“It was an unbelievable feeling, it was really cool to be noticed like that,” Hickey said of being named to the list.
“It gives me a lot of motivation. It makes me want to practise that much harder, play harder in games, take my game to the next level.”
To do that, Hickey said he’s got to work on moving the puck and reading plays quicker, as well as playing with a little more of an edge.
Though his individual goals are obviously high, he said that the best way to reach those goals is to play within the team concept for the Saints.
“It is a team sport, so the biggest thing is to play as a team,” Hickey said.
“When you play as a team, that’s when you get noticed for playing well as an individual. When you play with your teammates, you’re not trying to do too much or be selfish.”
That’s music to Jason Mckee’s ears. The Saints head coach said Hickey’s hard work is starting to pay off.
“He has a full season here to go but he’s definitely on the radar, which is a good thing to know as a player in your draft year.
“We expect him to get better and better. He’s come a very long way and he’s a world class skater.
“There’s a lot of things to like about his game, but most importantly, he’s a real good person, a real good teammate and he’s going to improve as the year goes on,” Mckee said.
“We’ve had a couple guys drafted last year and a few here in the last couple years in Spruce Grove, so hopefully we can keep that going.”
Mckee said the coaching staff is working with Hickey to give him an expanded role in offence — as evidenced by his scoring bump so far this season — and that will make him a more well-rounded player.
“He’s getting an opportunity to play in more offensive roles right now and he’s starting to take advantage of that,” Mckee said.
“There’s some details … that we need to work through, but he’s a real good defender, he skates well, he has a good stick, and thinks the game pretty well.
“If we can add a little bit of offensive polish to his game, it’s only going to make him a more complete player.”
And while the NHL is now within reach, Hickey still has a bitter taste in his mouth from losing in the AJHL final to Brooks last season.
“Our goal is to win the AJHL and I think we’ve got a good team this year, good young players, some speed, skill, we’ve got a good mix this year.
“If we start clicking as a team, I think we can eventually accomplish our goal,” Hickey said.
“I knew (the Saints) were a winning organization, that’s what brought me to Spruce Grove.
“It’s a winning culture and that’s never going to change. That will always be expected of the team — to win.”
The 2014 NHL Draft is June 27 and 28 in Philadelphia
– Thomas Miller, Reporter/Examiner