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Hickey working to stay on Canada's radar for WJC

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Brandon Hickey doesn't feel any different from the other 38 players in attendance at Canada's national junior team summer development camp.

But the outgoing defenseman from Boston University does hold one unique trait.

He's the lone collegiate invite.

"It's a pretty neat experience," said Hickey at WinSport's Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary. "There's obviously a lot of great players in college and it's pretty awesome being the only one here right now. It just proves I'm doing what I need to be doing on the ice."

Hockey Canada would agree. And Hickey's path won't hamper his ability to earn another invite to Canada's selection camp in December.

"Our guys do their homework," said Dave Lowry, who is looking to coach Canada to a second straight gold medal after serving as an assistant on the team that won in 2015. "They evaluate him. He's a very good player. Like I said to him, this is the first opportunity I've had to watch him play and he's here for a reason. He's here to challenge for a spot. Like we always say, it doesn't matter where they come from, if they're Canadian and deserve a chance they'll get one."

Hickey has done that to this point.

After being selected in the third round (No. 64) of the 2014 NHL Draft by the Calgary Flames, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound defenseman had six goals and 17 points in 41 games last season, his freshman year with the Terriers.

Though he may be out of sight to the coaching staff, Hickey certainly is not out of Canada's mind. He's in the same boat as all of Canada's hopefuls.

"His challenge isn't much different from the other guys," Hockey Canada director of player personnel Ryan Jankowksi said. "The Quebec coaches don't know the Western players. The Western coaches don't know the Eastern players. Brandon Hickey falls into a bit of a hole but I know him. The thing for him is he's played against bigger, stronger guys last year. College hockey is a little bit older. He persevered through that and got better throughout the year. He's on the up-curve. He had a heck of a year.

"Now he's here and he's like everyone else. It doesn't matter where they're from. We want the best players."

Hickey is no stranger to either Jankowski or Hockey Canada.

Alongside fellow camp invitees Joe Hicketts, Conner Bleackley, Brayden Point, Jake Virtanen and John Quenneville, Hickey represented Canada's Pacific entry at the 2013 World Under-17 Challenge, and played for Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge some 11 months later.

The Leduc, Alberta, native would've been a part of Canada's entry at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship in 2014 too had it not been for a long playoff run while with the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

So when Canada came calling again, Hickey immediately answered -- almost.

Fittingly for the 19-year-old, summer school got in the way first.

"I actually got a few calls when I was in finance class," said Hickey, whose Western Hockey League rights were acquired by the CHL Memorial Cup host Red Deer Rebels on Wednesday. "I had to return the call. I didn't know who it was at first. I got a text message afterwards asking to call him back. I called him back and it was him telling me I'd made the camp.

"I was pretty pumped about that. It's a dream come true just to be invited."

Hickey is smart enough to know that the Summer Showcase is more a re-introduction and less about making Canada's World Junior team three months out from the event.

He's still striving to leave a good impression before returning to college, though.

"For now, I just want to show the coaching staff and management my game," Hickey said. "I know they don't get to see me a ton because they're coaching in Major Junior. I just want to show them what I'm all about, what I do best and everything I can bring to the team."

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