A fresh sheet of ice.
Sometimes, that’s all it takes to change perspective. I walked into the Toyota Center well rested, relaxed, wearing one of my oldest shirts (a Ramones shirt from nearly 20 years ago that still looks great), and ready to watch number 37 shine…or so I hoped. Surly joined me about 15 minutes later.
Let’s get to it.
Passing drills. Shooting drills. Defensive formations against the counter attack. Offensive breakouts in transition. Groups as small as 2 and as large as 5 on each end of the ice. One after the other, the on ice coaches drew diagrams on the boards while the players stood or knelt and watched. Immediately thereafter, they skated into position, whistle blew, go! My eyes followed 37 up, down and lateral. If he moved, I was there with him.
First impressions…concern. Hickey was out of sync. While he made short, clean passes, he struggled handling the puck on several plays. He lost it twice as it either bounced over his stick or he misplayed the pass. Nothing impressive on the defensive side but nothing terrible either. I dare write that it appeared he was going through the motions. Hickey’s best showed during offensive transitions. His low and accurate shot from the point reminded me of Kyle Quincey. No rocket necessary so long as it gets on net and generates a rebound. Hickey scored one from the point and put in a sloppy rebound as well. Perhaps I read too much into it, but at one moment, when he awaited the next drill, he took one puck and released wrist shots into the side boards, over and over again. This wasn’t just goofing around or practicing the release. He wore a frustrated gesture with the puck slamming exercise as a speculative means to vent.
As the morning wore on, he improved. The 5 on 5 drills seemed to bring out the best in him. His skating stride is not fluid. A telling sign is the bouncing motion which accompanies that stride. Hickey labors. He doesn’t glide. Despite his skating, the more players on the ice and the more coaches presented real game scenarios, the more comfortable Thomas appeared. He took away a cross ice pass and forced the shooter to take a bad angle wrister on goal, which missed wide. He cleared the front of the net immediately upon a rebound. He is not able to outmuscle too many players that park in front of the netminder but he is capable of getting to the puck first, gaining position and leverage.
Surly may have some of this video about which I am about to write. When the drills stopped and the boys played 5 on 5 hockey, Hickey’s best came out. That lackluster, almost lazy demeanor changed to something schizophrenic. Thomas battled. He took his game to another level. Passing, winning skirmishes along the boards, despite lacking size, using his intelligence to take the puck away from rushing forwards and making stick to stick passes through the neutral zone. Who is this guy, I asked at one time? It was Thomas Hickey, the 4th overall draft pick in 2007 playing the part Kings’ fans hope to see this season.
Intelligence. On ice vision. Passing. Low and accurate wrist and slap shot from the point.
AREAS IN NEED OF IMPROVEMENT
Skating. Mid range speed and acceleration.
Will his game translate to the NHL? If he is 6 feet tall, he doesn’t look it. He is however built like an athlete. Hickey needs 10-15 pounds on his frame. He has the room to fill out. If he intends to break into the top 4 on a solid Kings’ defense, he will have to work on that skating and toughness. Today’s NHL moves at a lightning pace. Defensemen that lack size and strength must skate well to survive. I can see Hickey making the team. Though he did not impress me as much as Jake Muzzin, he does have seniority and has earned his place here. We wish him the best and hope to see that best this season.
Here are some short videos I took today. This is certainly not within my skill set, as you can see. I leave that to Surly who should have some damn good ones later today.
How did that get in here? Surly must have distracted me…
Back to Hickey…
Categories: L.A. Kings News