School is out and it's time for final grades here at Islanders Point Blank. Since June 1, SNY.tv's Brian Erni and I have been taking a look at each of the players and analyzing their 2015-16 performance, from the drop of the puck against the Chicago Blackhawks in October to that 4-0 loss in Tampa that sent New York home amidst roster uncertainty. Contract details via nhlnumbers.com and stats courtesy of hockeyreference.com.
Thomas Hickey, 27, Defense
Contract: Signed through 2017-18 - $2.200M cap hit, $2.250, $3.100M salary - unrestricted free agent
Season stats: 62 GP - 6 G - 11 A - 17 pts - 55 shots - 17:24 ATOI - 48.2 CF%
Career stats: 264 GP - 13 G - 52 A - 65 pts - 273 shots - 18:15 ATOI - 51.2 CF%
The Islanders fifth defenseman certainly didn't play like one this season. Thomas Hickey had his finest season as a professional since joining the Islanders as a 23-year-old waiver acquisition back in 2012-13, when he appeared in 39 games.
Three years and 225 more games later, Hickey has become a vital piece of the blue line puzzle for the Islanders, arguably having a better overall season than all but Travis Hamonic and Nick Leddy when you look at game to game stability.
The key for Hickey is going to be the continual evolution of his game. With the technology given to coaches these days, you can be sure plenty will begin to study the weaknesses in his game and try to exploit them with bigger, bruising forwards. After missing only one game over the previous two seasons, Thomas missed 20 this year due to a preseason broken thumb and a lower body injury suffered on October 24 against St. Louis, right after he returned.
Offensively, Hickey has never been a star but seemed to have found a knack for the dramatic this season, scoring to clinch a playoff berth in overtime against the Capitals and winning Game 3 of the first round playoff series against the Panthers, also in the extra session. He also delivered what easily won the Islanders 'check of the season' award when he laid out Tampa forward Jonathan Drouin in round two in front of the home crowd. Continuing to be in the thick of things, he then took a high borderline hit from Brian Boyle that allowed the Lightning winger to clinch Game 3 of the second round with an overtime winner.
With a career-high 22 points in 2013-14 and again in 2014-15, Hickey slumped to 17 this past season, although he set a career mark in goals with six and played to a +9, even though he had his minutes cut from 18:56 to 17:24. The Calgary native also saw his 5v5 possession number dip below 50% for the first time in his career, more indicative of a team wide slide in the area.
Defensively, Hickey was more than adequate, often using his smarts to avoid taking big hits after he led the team in that department in 2014-15. He was fine in transition and ended up with 90 blocked shots. There will always be the rare occasion where he gets outmuscled in front of his own goal by a bigger, more brawly type forward, but that has happened less times that two years ago as Hickey continued to progress into a bona fide NHL starting defenseman.
Hard to believe Snow got Hickey for nothing off the waiver wire after he was selected in the first round of the 2007 NHL entry draft (No. 4 overall) by Los Angeles. After toiling in the AHL for four years as a member of the Manchester Monarchs, where he collected 75 points in 212 games, Hickey will not be going back anytime soon. Considering the intangible facts, he has turned into quite the revelation and should have a place on the Islanders blue line for years to come as his game continues to evolve.
IPB grade: B
A fine overall season for Hickey, which included five points in 11 playoff games as a bonus.