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Who Do We Have With Connor Hicks v2.0

Who Do We Have With Connor Hicks v2.0

For the second year in a row, goaltender Conner Hicks finds himself amidst the lists of potential draft eligible players thanks to his very steady play between the pipes in the second half of the 2015/16 Hamilton Bulldogs season. Following the trade of annual starter, over-ager Charlie Graham, Hicks was able to over come one of the largest knocks on his game: consistency. Hicks was one of the earliest players I looked at in the draft last year, you can read it here if you’re interested.

  • NHL Central Scouting, N.A. Goalies:
    • 2015 Final – #10
    • 2016 Midterm – NR
    • 2016 Final – #27

Hicks was a victim of having a very consistent and reliable goaltender preforming night in and night out ahead of him from the moment he joined the Belleville Bulls organization. As a result, the transition to Hamilton combined with not being drafted last year left fans with the impression that he wouldn’t be able to shake off the backup role. After a few shaky starts to the season, there was indications that he suffered from confidence issues. It didn’t help his game that he was playing behind the youngest defensive roster throughout the OHL, who’s veteran leader was injured in the first five games of the year.

Last year I made the prediction that Hicks would be starting in net come the first Bulldogs playoff game. When GM George Burnett shipped of the over-agers in January, everyone wrote the team off as a playoff hopeful, especially because Charlie Graham wouldn’t be around to bail out the defense. Connor Hicks is just as responsible for dragging the Bulldogs to within four points of a playoff spot as the spike in offensive output from Luff, Petti & Strome, he truly stood on his head in the back 30 games. He came so close to making this prediction come to fruition, and he still has a chance going into next season.

Scouting Reports

  • Sean Lafortune, The Scout: “A positional goaltender who displays good poise and focus. Effective at playing a tight positional game, keeping his shoulders square and limiting the opportunities for opposition shooters. Good net coverage in the butterfly, despite dropping down, does an effective job at limiting upper portions of the net and displaying good net coverage. Dialed in and focused, he rarely looks upset by a goal against and keeps an even keel. Can struggle with his agility and mobility. Footwork and skating ability limit his ability to effortlessly move left to right within the crease.”  Source (Pre-season scouting report)
  • Brock Otten, OHL Prospects: “Like many young netminders, Hicks struggled with consistency this year. One game he’d be unbeatable (like his 62 save performance to close out the season versus Oshawa), and the next he’d be below par. Hicks is cut from the cloth that NHL scouts are looking for right now. Size (6’3) and athleticism. As a first year OHL netminder, he’s still got a lot to learn. But there’s certainly potential there, as he proved at various times this year. Next year it will be interesting to see if the Bulldogs give him a chance to earn the starting job and subsequently move Charlie Graham (the team’s OA starter).” Source

Hamilton Bulldogs goalie Connor Hicks is settling into a starter role as the 2015/16 season hits the playoff stretch. (Photo: Brandon Taylor / Hamilton Bulldogs)

Hamilton Bulldogs goalie Connor Hicks settled into the starter role as the 2015/16 season hit the playoff stretch. (Photo: Brandon Taylor / Hamilton Bulldogs)

Notes

One fact that truly plays into Hicks’ favour with regards to the potential of being drafted this season is the utter lack of top end goal tending products that are available this season. Joyce Gare attended the draft combine last weekend, and posted his top ten thoughts with a very juice tidbit regarding the lack of depth in the crease throughout the draft.

Said one goaltending coach: “I’m at the combine and I’m in the meetings but I can’t tell my GM that there’s a goalie that we can look at in the first two rounds. Maybe we can’t talk about one until the third or fourth. It’s a very bad year [for goalies].” (Source)

Listen to him discuss his season with Bulldogs’ play-by-play man Matt Holmes:

Where will he go?

I wouldn’t bet on Connor Hicks getting drafted this season, but that’s really okay. Last year, only one goalie was drafted out of the OHL (Blackwood), and the year before that, only three. A very small percentage of draft picks are spent on goalies because goalies are voodoo. It is incredibly difficult to predict the type of development opportunities that a goalie will receive between 17 and 27, there is far too many variables with regards to playing time, critical to developing a goalie’s confidence.

Hicks played well enough to deserve an invitation to an NHL development camp in July, there is no questioning that. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this happen, which will be a chance to learn from different professional coaches on what he needs to improve to make it as a professional. Bulldogs fans can hope for this outcome in the next three weeks.

The 2016 NHL Draft Series

Feature Image: Brandon Taylor / Hamilton Bulldogs

About The Author

Krist Hayes

Krist is fan of the game of hockey that has been moonlighting as a blogger recently writing about the OHL's Hamilton Bulldogs. Reckless since his days as a crease-crasher. Tweet him @kristhayes

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Reckless Restraint

A blog for fans of the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League. Updates, reports & musings on the team, players, and prospects.

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