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By the Numbers Prospects: Joe Hicketts

Blueliner focused on making Detroit's roster, not his lack of size

by Arthur J. Regner @ArthurJRegner / DetroitRedWings.com

By the Numbers will highlight the on-ice accomplishments in the 2017-18 season for the Detroit Red Wings' prospects. Twice a week during the offseason, By the Numbers will profile a different player in the system, focusing on his statistical highs. This week we focus on defenseman Joe Hicketts.

Defenseman Joe Hicketts knows he's 5-foot-8 and 181-pounds.

He hears about it constantly.

And since there's nothing he can really do about it, Hicketts decided long ago to embrace his smallish stature and concentrate on something he does extremely well, playing hockey.

Signed as free agent by the Red Wings on October 5, 2014 to a three-year entry level contract, Hicketts established himself as a leader and an offensive-minded defenseman during his Western Hockey League (WHL) career with the Victoria Royals.

In 224 games for the Royals, he notched 32 goals, doled out 141 assists, accumulated 149 penalty minutes and was plus-69.

Hicketts was named an alternate captain of the Royals for the 2013-14 season, his second season in Victoria. He captained the Royals for his last two seasons in the WHL (2014-16).

Once he turned pro in 2016, Hicketts had an impressive rookie campaign for the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins. In 73 games, he had 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists), 40 penalty minutes and was plus-15.

During the playoffs, Hicketts' solid play helped Grand Rapids capture the Calder Cup. He had one goal, seven assists and eight penalty minutes in 19 games.

Despite being a standout at every level of organized hockey he has participated in, Hicketts has never been labeled a sure bet - a can't-miss prospect to make the NHL.

Last season when he was addressing the media about Hicketts, Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill was blunt, telling the assembled scribes that every aspect of Hicketts' game must be exceptional.

Because of his size, Blashill said Hicketts won't get the benefit of the doubt that a bigger player would get.

Blashill also went on to say he loved Hicketts' fearlessness, competitiveness and his upbeat attitude, which his teammates rally around.

When he was informed about Blashill's comments, Hicketts agreed with the Wings coach because he has heard it all before and understands size is still cherished in today's fast-paced NHL.

But if Hicketts had bought into what his detractors believed, his hockey career would have been over before it began.

Instead, he's used the criticism as a motivational tool and is determined to make the Red Wings out of training camp.

Considering he has met every challenge head on since he was a child, betting against Hicketts may be foolish since he has demonstrated a knack for beating the odds.

67 - Games Hicketts played for Grand Rapids last season after appearing in 73 during his rookie season.

3 - After netting seven goals for the Griffins in his first season, his goal production fell to three last season.

9 - Hicketts' nine assists were 18 fewer than the 27 helpers he notched as a rookie.

12 - Hicketts experienced the dreaded sophomore slump in his second AHL season. His 12 points were significantly less than the 34 he accumulated as a first-year Griffins defenseman.

-10 - As a rookie, he was plus-15. Last season, he was a minus player, finishing the campaign at minus-10.

1-22- On January 22, Hicketts made his NHL debut against the Devils in New Jersey. In Detroit's 3-0 victory, he was scoreless, registering one shot in 15:13 of ice time.

1 - In his second career NHL game against the Pittsburgh Penguins played at Little Caesars Arena on March 27, Hicketts picked up his first NHL point, assisting on a goal by Frans Nielsen. In Detroit's 5-2 win, he finished with two assists, was even, had a game-high six blocked shots in 17:40. For his efforts, Hicketts was named third star.

+5 - Though he had a tough plus/minus year for Grand Rapids, Hicketts' plus-5 led the Wings last season. Darren Helm was second at plus-3 and captain Henrik Zetterberg and Nielsen were tied for third at plus-1. In his five games played as a Red Wing, Hicketts had three assists, two penalty minutes, two shots, nine hits and 12 blocked shots with an ice time average of 17:20.

Quotable: "It was exciting. I knew a little bit more about the league (AHL) and in that regard the league knew a little bit more about me. I wasn't that small defenseman that people take for granted. I had some big hits last year and kind of put a number on my back, especially the amount of times we play each other in our division. Maybe a slump (last season), but I thought it was good, I progressed nicely. Getting that chance in Detroit was really exciting. I thought I played really well considering the time of year it was and how the team was doing, but it was very exciting for me.

"Everything I did this summer was going towards making Detroit as a full-time roster member. Last year I wanted to make the team but knew in the back of my head, it was going to be another year in Grand Rapids with the reputation Detroit has of developing players. With that being said, they're definitely in a rebuild. Coming into this summer I knew there was going to be a really good opportunity to open the door and get my foot in. It started last year when I got my five games, but again everything about this summer was getting myself in the best possible shape and mindset to play a full 82-game schedule in the National Hockey League. I'm going to get my work done in the summer and I'm going to make sure that I am coming to training camp ready to earn a job." - Hicketts

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