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Past Fantasy Outlooks
The Islanders were unable to retain John Tavares, but they did re-sign Hickey, who was also an unrestricted free agent. While that's obviously a small consolation prize for an all-world center walking out the door, Hickey will bring some stability to a rather inexperienced blue line. Four of the team's top seven defensemen are 26 years old or younger, and Johnny Boychuk is well past his prime at 34. Don't be surprised if first-time Islanders coach Barry Trotz relies upon Hickey, who, in several ways, is coming off a banner season. In 2017-18, Hickey secured five goals and a career-high 25 points. He also posted a personal-best plus-20 rating, which was quite an achievement considering the Islanders yielded the most goals in the NHL. Hickey doesn't have the most fantasy upside this season, but he's certainly the safest bet.
Hickey's point totals from the past four seasons -- 22, 22, 18 and most recently 20 -- tell the whole story of his fantasy value. Taken with the fourth overall pick in the draft a decade ago, the 28-year-old has never lived up to that lofty pedigree, and he probably never will; after all, Hickey’s never even cleared 19 minutes of average ice time from the blue line, and he’s projected for yet another season of bottom-pairing minutes this year.
Many players fail to meet lofty expectations, which is exactly what happened with Hickey. The Calgary native was drafted fourth overall by the Kings in 2007 and never found a permanent spot among L.A.’s loaded defense and eventually found himself claimed by the Islanders off waivers in 2013. Hickey has proven to be a very serviceable defenseman since moving east, playing on a full-time basis in the NHL on the team’s third line for the better part of four seasons. Now that the unfair expectations have tempered, Hickey can be counted on as a mobile, puck-moving defenseman who rarely makes mistakes in his own end and chips in 20-or-so points per season.
The Islanders signed Hickey to a three-year, $6.6 million contract extension in July to anchor the third defensive pair for the team. Hickey possesses very little sizzle and is nothing more than a defensive worker with limited upside. Once prospects like Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield are ready to take on full-time roles with the team, Hickey could be forced out or take on the seventh defenseman role currently occupied by Brian Strait.
It's easy to make fun of general manager Garth Snow for his inability to strengthen the Islanders defense through free agency, but top-tier defenders generally have their pick of where they want to play - and that has not been Long Island for decades. Snow has to find players that other teams gave up on, which leads us to Hickey. He is a former first round pick of the Kings who never panned out. On most teams he would be a bottom-pair defenseman or someone who would sit in the press box most nights; with the Isles he is expected to play big-time minutes. He is certainly miscast in that role, but until the younger prospects are ready to take on that job, he will remain a top-four guy.
Hickey is another one of general manager Garth Snow's reclamation projects. As the former fourth overall pick of the Kings in the 2007 draft, he was claimed off waivers before the start of last season. Although Hickey didn't produce much offensively (1g, 2a), the Islanders felt he showed enough to warrant a two-year contract this off-season. Bottom line is that he is a bottom-pair defenseman who has limited upside, something the Isles seem to be loaded with.
Hickey, the fourth overall selection back in 2007, still hasn't lived up to the lofty expectations that came with his draft position and is getting close to being labeled as a bust. He's been on the cusp of a roster spot each training camp, but continues to get bypassed -- Alec Martinez leapfrogged him last year. Hickey did earn All Star honors with Manchester in the AHL this past season, but still managed just 26 points (three goals, 23 assists) in 76 games. He simply hasn't developed like the Kings had hoped and he'll need a very strong training camp to crack the Kings roster.
Hickey rebounded from an injury-riddled 2009 season season with a solid season (6 G, 18 A in 77 games) for Manchester in the AHL. He's been among the last cuts in each of his two previous training camps and will likely get a shot to earn a spot on the Kings' blueline again this camp but would be better served with another year in the AHL polishing his game. He's a smooth skater who could quarterback a power play but might have to wait his turn in LA with Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson around.
Hickey's fast track path to the NHL got derailed by a shoulder injury last year, limiting him to just 19 games at the AHL. He's a future quarterback on the power play, though it'll be interesting to see how the Kings handle that with Drew Doughty on board as well. The lack of playing time last year likely punches his ticket for the AHL to start the season, though a strong training camp could change those plans. He'll probably get in a dozen or so games for the Kings this season while spending most of his time working on his game in the AHL. The future is bright but he'll probably have to wait another season before busting onto the NHL scene.
Hickey ended his junior career with a bang, netting 16 goals and 35 assists in 57 games in the WHL. For good measure he picked up seven points in seven games down the stretch for Manchester in the AHL. He's got the ability to quarterback a powerplay but the Kings' overall youth on the blueline may make the team reluctant to add another fresh face on the backend. A strong training camp could land him on the roster but he's most likely headed back for a full season in the AHL. Definitely keep an eye on him as his future is very, very bright.
The fourth overall pick in the 2007 draft had another solid season for Seattle in the WHL (63 games, 11 G, 34 A, 9 PPG) and certainly has a nice offensive game. He could surprise and win a spot in training camp but figures to spend most of the season in the minors as he rounds out his overall game but is certainly one to keep an eye on.
The fourth-overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft, Hickey is only 18 years old and is considered a long-term project. The blue line is a sore spot for the Kings and if he shows anything, he could start moving up the ladder fairly quickly. That said, it's highly unlikely that he'll get a look with the Kings in 2007-08.
Hickey has everything you'd want in an NHL defenseman... except size. He can pass, shoot, skate and handle the puck, but at 5'10", he might never crack the top-six in the NHL. His future will be decided by his defensive partner -- put him with a big man and watch him succeed. Otherwise, he's just going to struggle.