It took a while for Thomas Hickey to get into the lineup after his preseason waiver claim, and some unfortunate lulls against the Penguins had him out of the lineup for half the first round of the playoffs, but the former Kings property is unquestionably among the top New York Islanders under age 25.
Many of us argue he belongs in the top 10, but that's not a unanimous view.
Hickey formed a wonderfully effective partnership with Lubomir Visnovsky this season, one that's likely to continue with Visnovsky re-signing and Hickey's rights retained as a restricted free agent. There is some question as to how much Visnovsky made Hickey and how much Hickey made the partnership possible, but the bottom line is they were the most consistent, effective Islanders pair for moving the puck the right direction.
Like Visnovsky, Hickey lacks imposing size and thus will not be counted on to move mountain men from in front of the Islanders' net. Like Visnovsky, his traits in the rest of his game compensate for that.
As for those who say he's soft or "can't play the body" or something, well...:
Hickey will have competition for a spot in the coming years as more Islanders prospects move up the pipeline. But right now he's still 24 and has a great chance to build off his long-awaited NHL rookie year.
Here's how our Top 25 Islanders Under 25 panel ranked him in Spring 2013:
Ranking him 24th, David is one of our less impressed voters:
I see Mark Wotton. Not a bad thing since Wotton had a good, long career in the AHL with a couple cups of NHL coffee, but ceiling tops out as depth defense.
Chris is closer to the rest of the pack with his rank, explaining:
I think Hickey is a wild card at this point. A pleasant surprise after being picked up on waivers, we need to remember that we only saw him for what amounted to half an NHL season. He was solid defensively and moved the puck well, forming what was, at times, the Islanders best D pairing with Lubomir Visnovsky. If he can repeat his performance in 2013-14 he will definitely move up my rankings.
For me, Hickey's already an NHL defenseman. The final month of the season, he routinely received 18-20 minutes of TOI and looked good doing so. Though Visnovsky was undeniably a key cog to driving play for the Isles this season, I see Hickey's part as much more than, say, Bruno Gervais partnering with the peak version of Mark Streit.
As always, we're ready for your quibbles and choruses on our votes, and how you'd put this player in your 25U25.
25U25 Spring 2013 Countdown (vote breakdown in each)
15: d Calvin de Haan
16: F Anders Lee