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Top 25 Under 25: Joe Hicketts Checks in at #9

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Team Canada v Team Russia

Player Vitals:

Position: Defense
Height/Weight: 5’8”, 177 pounds
Shoots: Left
Birthday: May 4, 1996 (21 years old)
Birthplace: Kamloops, BC
Drafted: Undrafted (2014 NHL Entry Draft)
Contract: 2 years, $635,000 AAV

Player Stats:

Strengths:

Make no mistake, Joe Hicketts is not a big guy. His smaller stature is probably the first thing you notice about him, but Hicketts plays is a special player and after watching some tape of his, you’ll soon forget about that he’s 5’8”. Hicketts is a big-time player. He uses his lower center of gravity and surprising aptitude for the physical side of the game to lay devastating hip checks on larger opponents.

Here he is standing his ground in the defensive zone and throwing 6’0”, 200 lbs Timo Meier to the ground:

And here he is finishing his check on 6’5”, 220 lbs Jonathan Diaby in a game this past year:

On top of his surprising physical game, Hicketts is a strong skater and plays a sound defensive game. He’s almost always in the right position to make the play and uses his skating to take advantage of that. Even as a first year pro in the AHL, Hicketts was given a ton of minutes at even strength and on the penalty kill.

Something that’s starting to develop with Hicketts is his offensive game. He’s shown flashes of becoming an offensive defenseman (there have been a few comparisons drawn between him and former Red Wing Brian Rafalski), and is certainly good with the puck on his stick. He finished 7th in rookie defenseman scoring in the AHL, and wrapped up his WHL career as one of the league’s top-scoring defensemen. We’ll have to see whether this part of his game continues to develop.

Weaknesses:

Even though he’s shown it’s not much of an issue for him, Hicketts’ size does put him at somewhat of a disadvantage, especially against more experienced opponents who are better at leveraging their size advantage over him. Hicketts is a competitor and will try to out-work anyone on any play, but it remains to be seen how far his effort can make up for his size at the NHL level.

Hicketts had some injury concerns coming out of Major Junior, an injury cost him the opportunity to play in the Top Prospects game, but I don’t think he has been sidelined for more than a handful of games each season since his Draft year. He only missed three games last season for Grand Rapids.

Moving Forward:

I think with the current logjam of defensemen on the Red Wings’ roster, Hicketts will spend at least another year honing his game in the AHL. He’s waiver-exempt for another 2 seasons (or 160 NHL games, whichever comes first), so expect him to get a few call-ups here and there. I don’t think he’s got a clear path to actually make the team this season, but within the next two years I could definitely see him pushing for a spot on the Red Wings’ blueline.

Nabbing Hicketts as an undrafted free agent might have been one of the better moves the Red Wings have had in the past few years. Despite his small stature, Joe Hicketts continues to defy all expectations and prove that he is a legitimate NHL prospect.