TORONTO - Undersized, undrafted and underrated when he went to Detroit Red Wings camp and Hockey Canada's world junior selection camp, Joe Hicketts came away with an NHL contract, a roster spot and a gold medal.
The defenceman enters his second world junior camp as one of three returning players and a desire to be a difference-maker.
"Last year I kind of came in blind, not having done the summer camp and really not knowing a whole lot about the pace of play with some of the best junior guys in the country," Hicketts said Thursday night after Canada's first practice. "This year I want to take a leadership role, I want to kind of show guys the pace of play and how a team like this has to play together in order to win."
Hicketts said he ran on adrenaline at Red Wings camp and Hockey Canada's camp a year ago, especially after he wasn't considered a top prospect a few months earlier. Now, he's running on memories but hasn't lost the chip on his shoulder.
"Here, it's wanting to recreate what we did last year," Hicketts said. "Every time that you come to one of these things, you want to win gold and you want to make the team, first of all. I think that's important that you continue to have that drive and that buildup towards the tournament."
Hicketts is listed at five-foot-eight but plays bigger on the blue line. He was a top-six player for Canada on the way to gold, relegating six-foot-seven 2013 first-round pick Samuel Morin to seventh-defenceman duties.
The Kamloops, B.C., native came to last year's camp as a long shot to make Canada's star-studded roster. After his first practice this year he was leading the stretching along with fellow returnees Lawson Crouse and Brayden Point.
Hicketts, Dave Lowry's captain with the Victoria Royals in the Western Hockey League, should be considered a favourite to wear the "C" under his coach for Canada.
"I like the character and I like the intangibles that he brings and I like the passion that he has for the game," Lowry said of Hicketts.
Hicketts said he wants to stress to his younger teammates the importance of putting on the Canadian jersey. He has already demonstrated it at the world juniors, too.
Because of that, he's eager to join Crouse and Point in leading on and off the ice.
"I think it's important that you convey and relay the message that the coaches want out there," Hicketts said. "I think it's up to the leadership group ??? starting right now with me, Pointer, Crouser who went through it last year. But you look at all the letters on club teams. There's a lot of leadership in there. I think going forward it's going to be about building a core leadership group of about six or seven guys."
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