As I watched the last few moments of Thursday’s practice at the Van Andel Arena, trying my hardest not to be star-struck (because lets face it, AHL players are pretty much famous), I stole my breath and tried to calm my nerves. Hicketts, or otherwise affectionately known to his teammates as “Little Joe,” first caught my eye at the Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, MI. Quickly becoming a key player with the Grand Rapids Griffins, I wanted to know what set this kid apart from the pack and Thursday, I got the chance to find out.
Signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Detroit Red Wings in 2014 after a Prospect Tournament invite, Joe Hicketts has firmly established himself with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. Slating 28 points so far this season, Hicketts continues to show no fear on the ice. Watching the unmatched determination with which he throws his weight when delivering hits, its hard to disagree with Hicketts when he says he believes that is one of his major contributions to the team, “I think I bring a physical element. Obviously I’m not one of the bigger guys but to this point I think I’ve been one of the bigger hitters going into the corners and can really bring a physical element to the game.”
Behind the big hits however, is something equally important; being teachable. During Hicketts’s tenure in Grand Rapids thus far, the biggest development off the ice that has contributed to his performance on the ice, is his uncanny ability to absorb from the veteran players, “I think you try pick up ya know things from everyone, it helps we got a lot of older guys in there. You try pick up little skills, whether its on the ice – off the ice…” Rendering his mind teachable, Hicketts’s ever growing skill-set is being perfected with an admirably humble attitude. The former Victoria Royals (WHL) captain has proven his understated leadership qualities and further demonstrating his indispensability to his new AHL family.
Plagued with injury and continual call-ups from their NHL affiliate, Hicketts and his fellow Griffins are looking forward to the future. With the playoffs just weeks away, he hopes to continue his current level of play, passionate and physical, “I think I’ve gotten better and better as the years go on, but you just want to continue that.” Adjusting to his new life here in Grand Rapids, the young rookie has an impressive work ethic that helps drive him to continually improve his personal game for the betterment of the team. Tipping his hat to his former coach, Dave Lowery, Hicketts credits his WHL experience and their 72-game regular season schedule, for his ability to play at the AHL level night after night.
Behind the calm, toothless grin, is a fighter. A young man who has overcome obstacles to make his presence known. Hicketts has a record dripping with accomplishments which in turn, caught the eye of Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill in Traverse City. Now under the leadership of Todd Nelson, Hicketts’s performance will only get better. With the full support of his team, Hicketts will continue striving to bring his physical element every game.