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Thomas Hickey: All Fired Up

EL SEGUNDO, CA — Despite being hobbled by off-season ankle surgery, Los Angeles Kings defenseman prospect Thomas Hickey is all fired up about his increased chances of making it to the National Hockey League next season, even though he is just nineteen years old.

Back in March, the 5-11, 182-pound native of Calgary, Alberta suffered what was thought to be a high ankle sprain. Hickey played through the pain, but the injury worsened.

After the season, Hickey was diagnosed with a torn ankle ligament and he had surgery to repair it, which included the insertion of pins to support the ankle.

When the Kings’ annual Development Camp came around, July 8-18, their first round pick (fourth overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft was still in a walking cast and on crutches. Indeed, Hickey was unable to join the other Kings prospects on the ice, but the camp was anything but a waste of time for him.

“It’s tough being here, seeing your peers on the ice and not be able to do the same thing,” Hickey lamented. “But I’ve been able to do other things, including go out on the inline rink and work with [Kings Director of Pro Development] Mike O’Connell, which has been really good for me. And there’s still video sessions and I’m learning a lot from those.”

“I’m still getting a lot out of the camp, even though I’m not on the ice,” Hickey stressed. “[He is working on] a lot of the same stuff the guys are working on out there [on the ice]. Deception, passing…the little things that you really don’t understand until you break it down to the finer details like they do here.”

And much to the relief of many, Hickey stated emphatically that he will be back at one hundred percent, ready to go by the time training camp rolls around on September 20.

“[His recovery has] gone really well,” said Hickey. “I’m really close to skating so I’m really excited. I’m getting the pins out [on July 11] and then I’m pretty much in the home stretch. I’ll be fully ready [for training camp].”

His full recovery from the ankle surgery notwithstanding, chances are slightly better than average that Hickey’s dream of making it to the NHL just might come true sooner rather than later.

Indeed, with the Kings in a full-blown youth movement, with hardly any veteran experience on their blue line and with open spots in their defensive corps up for grabs at the present time, as one of the Kings’ top defenseman prospects, he could find himself in a Kings jersey on opening night to sink or swim.

To be sure, that is the goal Hickey will go into training camp focused on.

“You’ve got to come ready, expecting the make the team,” Hickey explained. “Last year, I was in awe. It was my first NHL camp. I’m looking at guys who I’ve watched play for years and years since I was younger. For me, the learning experience is to try and compete with those guys and earn my spot.”

The big difference this year is that the Kings’ young prospects will not have the hardened, experienced veterans to learn from unless they are added as free agents or in trades prior to the start of the 2008-09 season.

“I took a lot away from what I learned last year from a guy like [defenseman Rob Blake, who signed as an unrestricted free agent with the San Jose Sharks for the 2008-09 season], and without him here, there’s veterans on this team, even though they may not be as old or as experienced,” said Hickey. “But they definitely bring that knowledge, so I can go to them for advice and, at the same time, I’ll use what I learned and compete with those guys, too.”

And just like his good friend, fellow Kings defenseman prospect Drew Doughty, who was selected by the Kings in the first round (second overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft back in June, Hickey is looking forward to training camp with great anticipation.

“It’s encouraging to know that you’ve got a shot as a 19-year-old, he explained. “Most guys don’t get that opportunity. It doesn’t matter how good they are. Sometimes teams have a lot of depth.”

“Right now, they’re rebuilding and going with some youth, so it’s encouraging for me to come out and give my best and hopefully get a spot,” he elaborated.

Hickey’s lack of size, the fact that he is coming off a serious ankle injury and the fact that he is just nineteen years old—all that usually adds up to a defenseman prospect who is not yet ready for the rigors of the NHL. But in the current state of the Kings, they may have no choice other than to put him in a Kings jersey to sink or swim.

Further, with the Kings going young and being expected to compete more for last place in the league standings once again as opposed to a playoff berth, the outlook for next season is anything but bright. Nevertheless, Hickey is clearly keeping his thoughts on a positive track.

“I don’t really pay attention to that, said Hickey. “I’ve watched hockey long enough where you think a team’s not going to be good and they come out and have a good season. Maybe they finish middle of the pack, maybe they do a lot better than that.”

“Expectations can turn out to be how the team plays, but I wouldn’t look into that…what…we’re in July right now? The season starts in October and there’s months to go from there so I don’t think you can look at that too much.”

For his own sake and assuming he makes the Kings lineup to stay next season, one can only hope that when the reality of the Kings’ troubles finally hits Hickey that it doesn’t feel like the proverbial ton of bricks, especially given the Kings’ history of injury woes.


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23 Responses to Thomas Hickey: All Fired Up

  1. deano says:

    Hey Gann, I just wanted to thank you for all of your hard work and making the summer hockey wasteland enjoyable for us Kings fans. Is there any chance on getting some interviews with Kopi, Sully, Fro, JJ and/or Brown on their views of the Kings getting younger and the current direction of the franchise. Thanks again.

  2. Gann Matsuda says:

    Thanks for the kind words. Getting interviews with those players before training camp isn’t likely as they are scattered all over the place. Kopitar is in Slovenia, for one thing…

  3. jgs says:

    You mentioned in the interview that he had the pins removed on July 11:

    How did that go?
    Is he doing on ice workouts now?

  4. Gann Matsuda says:

    I haven’t spoken to Hickey since that interview was done a few weeks ago. I don’t plan on speaking to anyone with the Kings for a little while. When I do, I’ll see if I can get an update.

  5. Timoteo says:

    Gann, what’s your take overall on the Kings moves this summer? Overall I’m pretty happy with things up front although I would have liked to have seen a depth 2nd line winger signing. We have Dustin, Sully, Kopi and Fro as no-brainer top 6. Handsuz or Stoll could be the 2nd line center. Question marks for Stoll if he can be Stoll.2005-2006 again. Handsuz has looked better as a 3rd line center than a 2nd. Also in the mix would be Armstrong but he’s another guy who’s lack of scoring (and improbably good +/-) looks like 3rd or 4th line. Biggest problem there is that’s 3 guys vying for center, none of them players that will scare other teams with their offense. Boyle will be looking to make the team as a center too which gives us some depth there but unless Stoll returns to his best form or Boyle steps up big (which he did in his brief tenure last year) we have a big drop off from Kopi.

    On the wing we have Fro and who? I would have to think Calder, Purcell and Moulson fighting for those spots. Calder was less than impressive last year but has to be given credit for playing through injury for a lot of the season. If the Chi-town Calder comes back good news, if not can Purcell or Moulson step into that position? Can a dark-horse like Moller step up into a spot in camp? Makes for a lot of ifs on the 2nd line. Depending on who wins the 2nd line competition we should have a good mix to make some interesting shut-down/energy/scoring 3rd and 4th lines.

    Then there’s the scary part, looking at the D. No Blake, no Lubo, no Stuart, no Modry. Coming back could be Johnson, Preissing, Harrold, Dallman. All young players, only one with an edge to his game. Coming in is Greene. Thankfully touted to be a defensive D, something we appear to be hurting for. So that’s 5 D with two of them being guys who the Kings had riding the pine a lot in the past and Greene the only one with significant size. Are Harrold and Dallman good enough for consistent duty? Can the new rookies step up and improve on our dreadful D last year? I would have liked to have seen the signing of one more solid D man so that we could ease the young guys in and not do it all en masse. There’s not exactly much of a mentor in this group anymore either.

    Overall we should be able to score goals but most likely will have trouble keeping it out of our net again. The positive spin would be with Murray that we can hope for a better overall team defensive effort (fingers crossed) and that the trifecta of Labs, Ersberg and Bernier can get some confidence from an improved team D and pick it up a notch or at least play like they did to finish the year.

  6. Gann Matsuda says:

    The Kings are probably going to be OK up front. Boyle and Purcell should make the team and contribute on the second line.

    As you said, it’s the blue line corps where the concern should be. My guess is that Doughty makes the team out of camp, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Hickey does as well, primarily because…well, who else do the Kings have as of this moment? Unless they acquire another defenseman or two somehow, the Kings don’t have much choice.

    BTW: Dallman will be playing in Europe…or was it the new Russian league? One of the two. He’s so irrelevant, I didn’t pay much attention. :-)

  7. cristobal says:

    Gann, that last statement about Dallman scares me. You mean the kings don’t even have this guy back? Something has got to happen before the season starts up. You just cannot go into an NHL season like this.

    Would you describe Hickey’s style and physical presence for us?

    He’s not the biggest, but what does he do out on the ice with what he’s got?

  8. Timoteo says:

    Good point, I forgot about him moving on. I’m really surprised they didn’t do more on D. Hard to fathom a whole D corp with no player having over 4 years in the NHL (I think that’s the case) and most likely 4 having played 2 full seasons or less (Harrold, Johnson, rookies). I should probably mention Gauthier as well, but he played all of last year in the AHL for Philly, hard to get to excited about him being part of the mix. Matti, where art thou?

  9. Gann Matsuda says:

    Why does that scare you? Dallman was about as valuable as…well, never mind. You get the idea.

    As for Hickey, he is an offensive defenseman who reportedly skates very, very well and, despite his lack of size, can take the body. But all I know is what I’ve heard. I have not seen him play, so take that FWIW.

  10. Gann Matsuda says:

    Don’t forget about Tom Preissing. Norstrom has retired and is back home in Sweden, in case you haven’t heard.

  11. Timoteo says:

    I’m not forgetting him, I think Preissing is our vet at 4 years.

    I know, I’m in denial. A player like Matti would have been great for the Kings this year, although hard to imagine why he would have wanted to come back to LA from Dallas from a competitive standpoint. Perhaps Forsberg will finally follow Matti’s example this year.

  12. deano says:

    For those of you who haven’t seen Hickey skate, you will be very impressed with his fluidity and control. He did get caught “running around” a bit at last years WJC, but he is a solid prospect and may end up one of the best skaters on the team. As for Gauthier, just go to youtube and type in Denis Gauthier. You will all start to get excited about having him on our team. Him being in the AHL last year was a numbers game in Philly. He’s a veteran with a mean streak, and will hopefully be up with the big team all year.

  13. Timoteo says:

    A numbers game via him being the odd man out or relating to salaries? It’s kind of hard to get excited about a guy who couldn’t make another team’s top 6. Or even alternate 7th. But by the same token I thought the Kings played much better D when Klemm was part of the line-up last year, Klemm would throw himself in front of shots and suddenly everybody was doing it, so there you go.

  14. deano says:

    Yes in relation to salaries and the salary cap. He’s definitely a better option than Klemm at this point in their respective careers, and someone who is known for their hitting. Don’t expect him to do much with the fisticuffs, because that’s not his strength, but he will try to put a few people through the boards.

  15. cristobal says:

    gann, it scares me because dallman at least had some nhl experience. gauthier, greene, preissing, and johnson. GREEN is a good adjective. I worry about young players, especially defensemen, being overexposed to one of the roughest games out there.

    Do you hear any news about RFA contracts or UFA signing?

  16. Gann Matsuda says:

    Dallman is scary (defensively). His absence is not.

  17. pucknfuss says:

    good job, and good exposure

  18. Gann Matsuda says:

    Puck: I worry when you use the word, “exposure.” :-)

  19. cristobal says:

    gann, do you think the defense is good as it stands? dallman, unfortunately, would fit right in.
    And I hate to keep bringing it up, but who acquired him?

  20. Gann Matsuda says:

    Obviously, the Kings’ defensive corps is not good at the moment. And who acquired Dallman? Lombardi signed him as an unrestricted free agent on July 10, 2006. But Dallman was, like the other UFA’s (except Blake), a cheap placeholder who no one should have expected much from.

  21. cristobal says:

    If he made sense as a cheap replacement at the time, how does he not work now that blake, vis., stuart, and modry are gone? and handzus is hardly “cheap” as he’s the highest paid King at the moment. I’m sure Kopitar will soon be higher paid, though.

  22. Gann Matsuda says:

    Let’s put it this way…Mike Weaver is a better defenseman. Need I say more? :-)

  23. timoteo says:

    It would be interesting to know what Murray thinks of having such a young D corp coming into the season and what kind of team style he will be trying to instill and how it will differ from Crow’s philosophy. I’m also curious if there are similar instances in the past of a team with so much youth on the blue line.

    The goalie situation is interesting too. I think Bernier will spend this year in the AHL. It will be a step up in league for him from last year and would be consistent with Lombardi’s concern of developing a goalie in a difficult environment.

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