Ready to launch: Royals 17-year-olds embark on draft year

Joe Hicketts and Jack Walker will be scouted thoroughly ahead of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft

Created with flickr slideshow.

It’s never early too early to talk about the playoffs. And it’s never, ever too early to talk about the NHL Entry Draft.

Even before the 2013-14 Western Hockey League season started, going deep into the playoffs was already part of the daily conversation for Joe Hicketts and Jack Walker of the Victoria Royals.

That’s because Hicketts, a Kamloops native, and Walker, from Minnesota, are two of the league’s prospects who will be scouted thoroughly this season ahead of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft next June.

The Royals/Bruins franchise has never produced a first round  NHL draft pick. Despite having superb skill and skating qualities, Walker (5-foot-11, 165 lbs.) and Hicketts (5-foot-8, 180 lbs.) are on the small side in terms of pro size. They’re long shots to go in the first round. But they’re both on the radar, and a big season can change everything.

“(Getting drafted) is the goal but team success brings individual success,” Hicketts said. “We’ve  heard it all the way up coming into this league, but it’s true, the farther you go in the playoffs the higher your chances of getting drafted.”

“The fact is some guys mature later than others,” said Royals general manager Cam Hope.

“In a way, it takes a special and sort of a weird combination of player, an early bloomer, to get drafted into the NHL in his draft year.”

If the Royals can improve this year over last, and general manager Cam Hope believes they will, then Hicketts and Walker will be at the centre of it.

The 17-year-olds are inextricably linked in the way in which their paths have crossed. As 16-year-old rookies last season they were paired together on the power play, with Walker dropping back from his regular role at forward to play the point with Hicketts, a regular defenceman.

Hicketts was shortlisted by Central Scouting Services this year on the 2014 early watch list for WHL draft eligible players. He’s represented Canada at the Youth Olympics and the World IIHF Under-17, and in July he helped Canada win the the Ivan Hlinka Memorial U18  world championship.

Walker, meanwhile, has been in the Team U.S.A. pipeline for years.

Walker came close to making the Ivan Hlinka tournament, as he was on U.S.A’s 40-man roster and played in its intrasquad game. But Walker ultimately had to resign himself to watching Canada defeat his American brethren in the gold medal final on television.

“It was tough but I turned my attention to the year ahead and what we’re going to be doing here in Victoria, and having a good season,” Walker said.

Walker was trying out as a defenceman for his national team, the position he was initially pegged for when he came to the Royals in 2012. But Walker was converted to forward after a slow start. He scored in his first game as a forward and has been a versatile part of the Royals ever since, quarterbacking the power play. Thanks to his experience with the American national program he will be scouted thoroughly this year. Same goes for Hicketts, who was on Canada’s top defensive pairing at the Ivan Hlinka tourney with Aaron Ekblad of the OHL, a top prospect heading into the 2014 draft.

They may not get selected in the first round next June, a feather still missing from the franchise’s cap, but Hope believes everything is in place for it to happen soon.

“If you look around the Western League rinks of the teams that have been around a long time, it is a big deal,” Hope said. “(Having) first or second round draft picks who go on to play in the NHL leaves a legacy behind, something for the players here to shoot for.”

Five Royals draft eligible

Forward Brandon Fushimi is also in his draft eligible season, as are newly acquired Royals, forward Landon Welykholowa and defenceman Jake Kohlhauser.

Just Posted

Beware of geese: Nesting season may trigger aggressive behaviour

Greater Victoria residents will have to be wary of nesting geese in the area

Royal B.C. Museum faces space, seismic standards and accessibilty issues; calls for public input

People can share their ideas online and in person from April 1 to June 27

British Columbians are paying more for booze but also broccoli

Victoria’s inflation was 2.3 per cent, a tick above Vancouver’s of 2.2 per cent

Scottish cultural centre proposed for View Royal

A 10,000 square foot building is proposed for the Craigflower Manor grounds

Victim of cyber attack speaks out, highlights Sidney generosity

Business association head talks of ‘horrendous consequences’ in wake of scam

Victoria hosts ‘Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave’

The hockey cave was recently featured on a Netflix special

Is it a homicide? B.C. woman dies in hospital, seven months after being shot

Stepfather think Chilliwack case should now be a homicide, but IHIT has not confirmed anything

SPCA seizes 54 animals from Vernon property

Animals weren’t receiving adequate care

Morneau unveils principles for Indigenous ownership in Trans Mountain pipeline

The controversial pipeline was bought by Ottawa last year

Refugee who sheltered Edward Snowden in Hong Kong arrives in Canada

Vanessa Rodel and her seven-year-old daughter Keana arrived in Toronto this week

New UMSCA trade deal getting a boost from Trump, business groups

The trade deal is designed to supplant the North American Free Trade Agreement

Trudeau says he, Wilson-Raybould had cordial conversation last week

Trudeau denies anything improper occurred regarding SNC-Lavalin and the PMO

SNC-Lavalin backtracks on CEO’s comments surrounding potential job losses

Top boss had said protecting 9,000 jobs should grant leniency

Vancouver Island home to B.C.’s luckiest lotto store

Five million-dollar winners have bought tickets from same Port Alberni corner store

Most Read