By the Numbers will highlight the on-ice accomplishments in the 2018-19 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.
After playing five games for the Red Wings during the 2017-18 campaign, defenseman Joe Hicketts was confident he put himself in a good position to stick with the Wings for the 2018-19 season.
Hicketts had a satisfactory training camp last season after spending the summer rigorously training to improve his game, and he was on Detroit's opening night roster.
But if it wasn't for the myriad of injuries to the Red Wings' back end, Hicketts most likely would have begun the season with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins, hoping to impress Detroit's brass enough to earn a call-up with the Wings.
With so many defensemen hurt to begin last season, the Red Wings found themselves playing four rookies for the first several games and the results were not encouraging.
It was also a terrible position to put the rookie defensemen in and Hicketts' play seemed to suffer.
Known for being fearless and a bit of risk taker, Hicketts appeared tentative and pressed instead of letting the game come to him.
Earlier this season when the Wings were in Boston, there was a bit of a dust-up near the end of the first period. As players paired up, Hicketts became entangled with Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, all 6-foot-9, 250 pounds of him.
It didn't matter that Chara had 13 inches and almost 80 pounds on Hicketts, he was ready to stand his ground.
Because of his upbeat personality and take-no-prisoners attitude, it's easy to understand why Hicketts inspires his teammates and has endeared himself to the fans.
But as the Wings became healthier on the blue line, Hicketts was sent down to Grand Rapids for the rest of the season, except for a late season call-up when the Wings again experienced an overabundance of injuries to their defensive unit.
Despite last season not playing out the way he envisioned, it will not deter Hicketts from his quest to become an everyday NHL player.
Hicketts is in the third year of his three-year, $1.975 million entry-level deal. All signs appear the Wings will extend a qualifying offer to Hicketts, making him a restricted free agent.
Though he has somewhat struggled at the NHL level, especially at the beginning of last season, the Red Wings still believe Hicketts has the wherewithal to make a legitimate bid to play for the Red Wings.
11 - Total games Hicketts played for the Red Wings. He played eight of Detroit's first nine games before being sent down to Grand Rapids. In early April, he was recalled by the Wings and played in Detroit's final three regular-season games.
0 - Hicketts did not register a point in his 11 games with the Red Wings. In five games with Detroit in 2017-18, Hicketts doled out three assists.
-9 - After leading the Red Wings at plus-5 in 2017-18, Hicketts was minus-9 in his 11 games this season.
18:35 - His ice time average, which was 1:14 more than he averaged in 2017-18.
7 - On April 4, in Detroit's 4-1 loss at Pittsburgh, Hicketts blocked seven shots, the most blocked shots in a game by a Red Wings player last season. He had 27 blocked shots in his 11 games for the Wings.
64 - Total games he played for Grand Rapids.
3 - He notched three goals for the Griffins, including one game-winner.
24 - Number of assists he registered, which led the Griffins defensive corps and was fourth on the team. Center Carter Camper's 33 assists was the best for Grand Rapids.
27 - His 27 points was tops among Grand Rapids defensemen and sixth on the team. Right wing Chris Terry's 61 points (29-32-61) led the Griffins.
67 - Hicketts was assessed 67 penalty minutes, the fourth-highest total on the Griffins. Fellow defenseman Dylan McIlrath led Grand Rapids in penalty minutes with 98.
Quotable: "I think he had a really good year this year. I'd go so far as to say he had a better year this year than last year, primarily due to his consistency. He's always brought that compete level and great attitude every day at the rink. A year ago he was on the verge of making the Red Wings out of camp. He was certainly right there, he was probably our first call-up option as a defenseman and he was understandably disappointed as a second-year pro, he put in a lot of time in the offseason to compete for that spot, so when he went down to Grand Rapids there was a period of adjustment. To his credit, he's a high character guy and got his game on track and certainly got it ironed out. But this year I would say was a more consistent approach, a more mature approach. He still hungers for the opportunity to play in the NHL, but he had a better perspective in terms of when that opportunity will come and still be in a good spot development-wise when he is in the American League. Our exit meeting with Joe was very positive. I would suspect he's going to be a guy we're going to qualify, he'll be a restricted free agent. We still believe he is a prospect, but I'm speaking from my personal standpoint as opposed to that of Steve (Yzerman) and Pat (Verbeek). We like him, he's a competitor, he's a gamer, he's a hockey player, a high character guy. He has some things he needs to work on to try and develop into a full-time NHL player and he's aware of those certainly and after the exit meeting he has a clear understanding of what he needs to do." - Ryan Martin, Red Wings assistant general manager and Grand Rapids Griffins general manager