Hickey Embracing ‘dark horse’ Label at Canada’s World Junior Camp

Brandon Hickey has been an unknown for the Hockey Canada brass this week in their evaluation of the junior-aged talent available to them for this year’s world junior hockey championship.

The 19-year-old defenceman understands why.

Hickey spent three years in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Spruce Grove Saints before committing to Boston University. Drafted in the summer of 2014 — 64th overall by the Calgary Flames — the Leduc native played for the Terriers in 2014-15 and went all the way to the Frozen Four in the springtime.

All of which didn’t exactly give Hickey a lot of face time.

“For sure, they don’t see me as much,” he said. “All the coaches are CHL coaches and the coaching and scouting staff seems like they see the CHL guys more. I’m OK with that. I’m like a dark horse coming in.

“That’s just makes this week especially important for me to come out here and show what I can do because they don’t see me a ton.”

Which is exactly the purpose of these exhibition games — four in total, two each against Russia and the Czech Republic.

Hickey scored against the Czech Republic in Tuesday’s 7-1 win and was also set to dress for Wednesday’s second meeting against Russia (8 p.m., Markin MacPhail Centre), giving Scott Salmond a second look at Hickey in game action.

The vice-president of hockey operations explained the mystery behind Hickey, which wasn’t really a mystery. They just didn’t see a whole lot of him during his early junior career.

“This is our first look at a guy who is in the NCAA, one who we want to get a good look at,” Salmond said. “He’s a guy who hasn’t surprised us, but has been a guy we’ve gotten to know a bit better.

“He’s a guy that has been interesting for all of us.”

An intriguing prospect for the Flames, also. And especially considering Wednesday’s developments.

The Red Deer Rebels — hosts of the 2016 Memorial Cup — traded for Hickey’s Western Hockey League rights, striking a deal with the Tri-City Americans for a fifth-round pick in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft and two conditional WHL bantam picks.

That means should Hickey decide not to return to Boston University for his sophomore season in 2015-16, he could potentially sign with the Calgary Flames and play for the Red Deer Rebels. At the moment, NCAA rules prevent the 64th overall pick in 2014 from signing with an NHL club.

As of Wednesday morning, however, Hickey was committed to returning to Boston University.

“In two and a half weeks, I’ll be back at BU for the rest of the year,” said Hickey who had six goals and 17 points in 41 games in 2014-15. “I’m just going to continue to play there and see how far I can get in my degree and hopefully everything goes well school-wise … I’m planning to go back after camp here and have a great start to the year with my team.”

Hickey, who also attended Calgary’s NHL development camp in early July, has his sights set on cracking the world junior roster that will compete in Helsinki this Christmas.

Yes, he’s technically a Hockey Canada rookie. But, because of his NCAA college experience, he’s on the veteran side of the first-time invites trying to crack the blueline. Currently, the development camp roster only features one returnee (Joe Hicketts) from the 2015 gold-medal winning squad.

“It kind of feels like it,” Hickey said. “I’ve been hanging out with older guys on my team (at BU), the 22- and 23-year-olds. I feel like that’s made me more mature both with my game and as a person.

“It’s been motivating (being at Hockey Canada’s camp) because I want to show them what I can do throughout the year … and hopefully get on that world junior team.”