PHILADELPHIA, PA -- Heading into the 2014 NHL Draft, Spruce Grove Saints defenceman Brandon Hickey was the top-ranked Alberta Junior Hockey League skater.
Saturday, he became the first from the AJHL to be drafted when the Calgary Flames tagged Hickey with the 64th overall selection.
And the product of Leduc, AB couldn’t be happier.
“For sure it’s an honour,” Hickey said from his home. “There’s a lot of great players that we played against this year in the AJHL and to think that I’m the first one to get drafted it’s a pretty unique feeling and it’s a pretty special feeling as well.”
Hickey, ranked 63rd among North American skaters by Central Scouting heading into the draft, is in the AJHL for a specific reason.
While the Tri City Americans own his Western Hockey League rights, the 18-year-old has designs on taking the college route in order to better prepare himself for a professional career. Standing at 6-foot-1.5 and 177 pounds, added time in the gym the college life allows for better development, the Boston University commit admitted.
“Just the extra time to develop,” said Hickey, who had four goals and 22 points in 49 games for the Saints this season. “It gives me an extra four years under my belt to be able to work on my game and grow a little bit more and put a little bit more weight on. I think that just -- as a defenceman especially -- helps because it takes that much longer to develop your game as a defenceman.”
That’s good news for the Flames, who was the first blueliner taken by Calgary in 2014.
Understandably, Hickey’s happy he doesn’t have to move far when he is ready to turn pro.
“That’s the part that’s really unbelievable to me,” said Hickey, who describes himself as a smooth-skating, puck-moving rearguard. “It’s so close to home. It just seems like… it’s an unbelievable feeling right now and I still can’t fathom what’s going on right now.
“It’s pretty surreal right now, I can’t even describe the emotions right now. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Hickey, who represented Canada on Team West at the World Junior A Challenge in 2013, didn’t have any indication he’d be heading just a few hours south on the QE2 on draft day.
“Not really,” said Hickey, who helped Spruce Grove to an AJHL title this season after the team compiled a league-best 47-10-3 record in the regular season. “I talked to them down at the combine but there was no one thing, like we really, really want you.
“I think on draft day it’s pretty much a big surprise where you’re going to go.”
But he’s more than content with Calgary, and more than happy to be the first AJHLer off the board.