Joe Hicketts is determined to play in the National Hockey League this season.
The 22-year-old defenceman from Kamloops made his NHL debut in 2017-2018 and finished with three points in five games with the Detroit Red Wings.
“What that kind of did was motivate me,” said Hicketts, who was at a B.C. Hockey event in Riverside Park last week when he spoke to KTW. “I got a taste of the NHL. This year, I want to be there full-time.”
Hicketts began his professional career in 2016-2017 with the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Red Wings’ American Hockey League affiliate, and won the Calder Cup.
He racked up three goals and 12 points in 67 games with Grand Rapids last season and made his Red Wings’ debut against the Devils in New Jersey on Jan. 22.
“I was only up for a day and a half or two days, but you’re flying to New Jersey, you’re not on the bus,” Hicketts said. “That was kind of the first taste that, you know what, I don’t really want to get sent back down.
“At the end of the season, I was up for another couple games and that was kind of the last little push that said, ‘I’m going to do everything in my power this off-season to work toward being there full-time.’”
Off-season training has been intense and included a trip to Montreal to work on skills and power skating.
Hicketts will be working out in Kamloops before heading to practise later this month with the Victoria Royals, with whom he starred in a four-season WHL career.
There were mistakes, but the 5-foot-8, 180-pound rearguard did not look out of place on an NHL blue line, with his first point coming in a 5-2 victory over Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in Detroit on March 27.
He will head to the Motor City in September with no plans to leave.
“Last year, with salary cap and other contract restrictions, it was easy to send me down while they had their 23-man roster,” Hicketts said. “This year, it’s my chance to get in, I think.”