March 10, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders defensemanThomas Hickey
(14) on the ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins before the start of the game at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
- Name: Thomas Hickey
- Enrolled: 2013
- Age: 24
- Undergraduate: 2007
- Days Absent: 9
- Scholarship: None, restricted free agent
- Achievements: 39 games, 1 goal, 3 assists, +9, 47 blocks, 16:52 TOI,
Class List and Grade History
- Skating: A
- Shooting: C
- Passing: B-
- Defense: B-
- Leadership: Incomplete
Professor’s Comments: Hickey was an enigma wrapped up in a riddle. Plucked off waivers by Garth Snow on January 15 from the Los Angeles Kings, he proceeded to sit out the first 4 games of the season as the team evaluated just what they had in him.
Making his debut on January 27 versus Winnipeg, Hickey went on to appear in 39 of the Islanders last 44 games and performed very well in his limited role. Over his first six games he averaged a little more than 11 minutes per game.
Then head coach Jack Capuano began to see he had a mobile puck moving defenseman who despite his small stature (5’11, 190) could handle himself just fine in the defensive zone. The ice time increased dramatically from that point on, at times even reaching the 20 minute mark on several occasions (he would surpass that mark 3 times in the season’s final month). In fact, Hickey’s +9 rating was second on the entire team, trailing only Lubomir Visnovsky‘s +12.
So why then did he play only 2 of the 6 games against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round of the NHL playoffs? That is the riddle….Clearly proving he could play with the big boys and not miss a beat, above average in transition and one of the most agile and mobile defenseman on the squad, Thomas ended up sitting in the press box for most of the series. The Islanders gameplan was to attack the Penguins with speed and when they did found success, further adding to the questions that only Capuano can answer in regards to Hickey’s absence.
Skating is clearly his strongest suit. Speed is the name of the game in the current NHL, and as we saw with departing captain Mark Streit, once you lose a step against the current crop of forwards that comprise your opponents, you are a liability more often than not.
Shooting is the one area of marked improvement needed for Hickey. Averaging a shot per game is adequate for a defensemen, especially one whose offensive game is not the highlight. But on a number of occasions, he struggled to even get the puck to the net.
Passing is above average in all areas of the rink. Transition passes are mostly tape to tape and he shows good, heady play in terms of his decision making.
Defensively the Islanders got way more than they bargained for. His aforementioned plus/minus statistic, while at times misleading, clearly shows he was a asset more often than a liability when on the ice.
Leadership gets an incomplete as Hickey obviously came in low man on the Islanders totem pole. There are clearly no visions of an ‘A’ or ‘C’ in his future.
Professor’s Recommendation: As a restricted free agent, the Islanders hold all the bargaining power when it comes to negotiating an extension with Hickey. Coming off a one year deal at $700k, he clearly earned that salary in comparison to the ever rising economic climate around the league.
Snow has plenty of cap space to play with, even with the number falling to $64.3mm and my feeling is that an extension gets done for a modest raise to $750k over 3 years. The Islanders are going to need Hickey in the lineup most nights and could certainly insulate themselves going forward without Streit.
Overall is Hickey worthy of his draft selection (4th overall by Los Angeles in 2007)? Absolutely not. Especially when you consider that Logan Couture, Sam Gagner, Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Shattenkirk were all selected later. But he did prove he can play in the league and definitely earned his promotion to the next grade.