Okanagan Hockey Academy alum Joe Hicketts is one step closer to his dream.
The current Victoria Royals defenceman inked a three-year entry-level contract with the Detroit Red Wings last week after a stellar showing at the club’s Main Camp.
“It feels great,” said Hicketts, who was also named team captain of the Royals this season, the youngest in team history. “It’s definitely an honour and humbling to sign with an NHL organization, especially an original six team, which makes it that much more special.”
It all started back in June when Hicketts was passed over at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft after breaking his arm and missing 36 games during the 2013-14 season. Soon after, the Red Wings came calling, offering him an invitation to attend their Prospects Development Camp in July as a free agent.
“I had a good showing there and they brought me back for the Prospects Tournament in Traverse City and I thought I had a good showing there as well and it carried over into Main Camp,” said Hicketts, who had 54 points in 51 games for the OHA Prep team during the 2011-12 season. “I thought I had a really, really strong Main Camp and (Red Wings GM) Ken Holland was very happy with me and offered me a contract on my way home.”
Spending time at any NHL camp is an eye-opening experience for any 18-year-old, especially in Detroit with the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg also taking part.
“The first day of Main Camp at breakfast all the tables were full and (Pavel) Datsyuk happened to pick the one seat that was open next to me,” he said. “I made it through breakfast and texted all the guys back in Victoria telling them I sat beside Datsyuk at breakfast. It was really cool to meet and talk to some of those guys, but what was really cool was watching them on the ice; seeing how they conduct themselves and how poised they are with the puck.”
Hicketts says with the exception of not having to worry about the NHL Draft in June anymore, he doesn’t feel much different now that he has signed a NHL contract. But watching him on the ice, he looks different. At 5-foot-8 he isn’t the tallest defenceman out there, but he makes up for it with strength as he is pushing almost 200-pounds after adding a lot of muscle in the off-season.
The hard work seems to be paying off as he has recorded two goals and two assists through three games with the Royals so far this season, including the OT-winner on Saturday night against his hometown Kamloops Blazers.
Only a handful of undrafted junior players get signed each season, and he was one of them. The Kamloops, BC product says it all comes down to one word: work.
“It was a lot of hard work. You ride the low of not being drafted for a few days and then it’s back in the gym working hard and working harder than anyone else.”Photo Credit: Detroit Red Wings
Choosing Okanagan Hockey Academy was one of the best decisions I have made for my development. The relationships I built with my teammates, coaches, and staff are bonds that will last a lifetime. The structure of the program on and off the ice prepared me to play junior hockey.