Brandon Hickey has until Aug. 15 to decide whether he wants to sign with the Buffalo Sabres. The relationships he's already formed within the organization certainly won't hurt their odds.
Hickey, 22, was acquired via trade with the Arizona Coyotes on June 14 following a four-year career at Boston University. Some of the firsts texts he received were from Evan Rodrigues, Jack Eichel and Danny O'Regan, who together comprised the Terriers' top line during the 2014-15 season.
Hearing from those three players made Hickey excited about joining the organization, as did the knowledge of a young core that also includes Rasmus Dahlin on defense and Casey Mittelstadt at forward. You can bet that both will be factors in his decision making this summer.
Video: Duffer and Dan talk Dahlin, Asplund and Luukkonen
"Definitely," Hickey said on Thursday, following the second day of on-ice sessions at development camp. "When it's a young core, there's going to be a lot of upside, a lot of opportunity to come in and make a little bit of a difference.
"That was kind of the same situation BU was in when I got there. A lot of young players, guys that wanted to make a difference. I think it definitely will have an impact on the decision."
There's also the presence of assistant general manager Steve Greeley, who was associate head coach at BU when Hickey was a freshman. Hickey said it was Greeley who was most instrumental in recruiting him to the Terriers.
"He was there through the whole recruiting process, called me all the time, let me know where they were at when I let them know where I was at," he said. "He was a big piece in my deciding to go to BU so him being here and being as close as we are definitely helps coming here and making things a lot easier.
So, we know why Hickey is excited about Buffalo, but why are the Sabres excited about him? His intangibles likely have something to do with it. Hickey played all four years at BU, finally serving as captain last season.
"It was the biggest honor I've ever had in my life," he said. "You go to the rink every day and you're looked at a different way. You're told to lead the guys, it's your job to do it. Everyone looked up to you in a different way, even around school too.
"I captained my 26 brothers and it was the greatest experience of my life. I wouldn't have traded it for the world."
Video: Brandon Hickey (6/28/18)
Hickey could have traded that opportunity for a chance to turn pro sooner, a fact he was reminded of by friends who questioned his decision to play out his college career. His response showed the kind of maturity one might expect from a captain.
"It's not a sprint to get where you want to go to the pro level, it's a matter of how long you stay once you get there," he said. "You're not trying to get there as quick as you can. I want to be a guy who can stay around and play for a while."
Hickey's journey to this point has taken him through three organizations. He was a third-round pick by Calgary in 2014, then was traded to Arizona in June of last year. This is his fifth development camp.
Hickey has been paired as roommates with Mattias Samuelsson, another defenseman who has been praised for his leadership qualities. Samuelsson said he aims to be like a sponge during the course of the week, and Hickey has plenty to offer.
"I just want to give him some good habits," he said. "You kind of want to make sure you're on time for things, dress a certain way, even if there's no dress code you want to look presentable. He's a great kid, been a great roommate so far.
"We've got a lot in common. I've really enjoyed my time with him and he's going to be a great player."
If the Sabres have it their way, Hickey will bring those same intangibles to camp this fall. The defenseman said he expects to learn more about what role is planned for him later in the week.
"I think we're going to talk about that tomorrow in exit meetings and touch on it a little bit more with management," he said. "But I couldn't be more excited."
Pilut likes opportunity in Buffalo
Video: Lawrence Pilut (6/28/18)
Count Lawrence Pilut as another defenseman who Greeley helped bring into the organization. Pilut said he spoke with Greeley early last season about the upside of a potential career in Buffalo, a conversation that set the table for him signing his entry-level deal last month.
In the meantime, Pilut had a career season that earned him Defenseman of the Year honors in the Swedish Hockey League. The 22-year-old scored eight goals and 30 assists, more than tripling the career-high 12 points he had scored one year prior.
Pilut said his progression came as no surprise.
"I felt like three years ago I had the same feeling … but then I got an injury so it kind of set me back one year," he said. "And then last year it felt like I took that step again, like I just kept growing into the season and took more responsibility as the season went. So, it was almost like I was anticipating it a little bit."
Better than vacation
Video: William Worge-Kreu (6/28/18)
William Worge-Kreü, Buffalo's seventh-round pick in Dallas last weekend, said he watched the draft from the airport in Stockholm, Sweden. If Kreü had not been drafted that day, he was all set to leave for a vacation in Miami.
Needless to say, the defenseman was pleased to have ended up in Buffalo instead.
"It's a really good organization," he said. "The fans here are unbelievable. They almost packed the arena here so that's a special something I'm not used to. It's real amazing."