He may not look like a defenseman, but Hicketts plays big
At 5-8 and 180 pounds, Joe Hicketts doesn’t look like the stuff that an outstanding NHL defenseman is made of. But don’t underestimate someone who has bucked the odds throughout his career.
Hicketts had the first two points of his career with two assists in his second NHL game, the Red Wings’ 5-2 win over the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins at Little Caesars Arena on March 27.
The 21-year-old, who was recalled from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League the day before the game, is hoping to show the Wings that he is ready for the NHL in the last few games of this season. That audition will carry into training camp next season.
“Joe has got a lot of swagger, lots of confidence,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said on www.mlive.com. “With that kind of swagger, he’ll have to manage his turnovers, he’ll have to manage certain mistakes. But he plays to win hockey games. That’s why he’s had success at the Canadian World Junior level, that’s why he’s had success in the WHL (Western Hockey League, Major Junior), that’s why he’s had success in the American League.
“He doesn’t look like a normal NHL defenseman with his size, skating combo. He’s been able to defy the odds. Can he keep defying odds? We’ll see. Careers certainly aren’t defined in one or two games. They’re defined time after time after time.”
Hicketts’ first game was on Jan. 22 in New Jersey. And though he played well and was a plus player, he was returned to Grand Rapids.
“Hicketts comes in and plays really good again,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “I thought he was one of the best defensemen the last time we played him, and he got sent down. I told him, hopefully, he’ll stick around this time.”
Hicketts’ first assist came on Frans Nielsen’s power-play goal in the second period that gave Detroit the lead for good, at 2-1. Hicketts skated 1:40 of his 17:40 of ice time on the power play.
“When you’re an undersized D, you have to find a way to be elite on the power play,” Blashill said. “(Like) most of the undersized D in the league, and certainly I coached one in Torey Krug” – Livonia native and current Boston Bruin whom Blashill coached in the USHL – “he’s elite on the power play. Joe doesn’t have the same deception that Torey has, but can he find a way to make the power play really cook?
“The other side is, does he make more positive or negative plays?”
Hicketts had six of the Wings’ 25 blocked shots against the Penguins.
“I’m not the biggest guy around on defense,” he said. “Boxing out might be something I let the bigger guys do. I’ll get in front and block shots. It’s something I’ve really been learning in Grand Rapids.”
There’s already a great deal of admiration for Hicketts among Detroit’s players and coaches.
“He’s got guts,” Blashill said. “That’s what he is, a big-time competitor. I know the other guys are glad he’s here because they’ve got lots of respect for him.”