Nick Cicek has found the offensive side to his game over the last two years. But that’s not necessarily what’s going to get him into the NHL.
“I think being a hard to play against, stay-at-home defenseman is most likely going to be what he’ll be,” San Jose Barracuda head coach John McCarthy told San Jose Hockey Now.
This, despite 25 points in 53 games in his Barracuda debut last year, and 21 points in 24 contests in 2020-21 with the Portland Winterhawks. Before that, Cicek had accumulated a total of just 27 points over 114 appearances in his first three WHL campaigns.
The good thing is, the 22-year-old defender, competing with Artemi Kniazev, Santeri Hatakka, and Ryan Merkley for a job with the San Jose Sharks this fall, knows where his bread is buttered.
“That’s the main part of my game. That’s how I grew up in junior, playing that defensive style, and I love that part of the game,” Cicek said.
So it’s all good: Cicek knows what’s going to get him into the big leagues, but any offensive growth is a sign that he’ll also be able to handle the basic, key offensive elements of the best league in the world, be it a good first pass or getting his shot on net when he gets the chance.
“I like to expand on my offensive play and try to grow that part of my game, but I know my roots are playing defensively solid, making a good breakout pass,” he said. “We’ve definitely chatted about that with me and some of the scouts in the organization, and I think we’re on the same page with where I need to go and how I need to grow to get to that place.”
Like with any young defenseman, defensive play is a work in progress, but consider how Cicek has defied the odds at every turn, would you bet against him getting “to that place”?
Cicek was undrafted out of the WHL, signed initially to an AHL contract with the Barracuda, finally earning an NHL contract last year with the San Jose Sharks.
Here’s what the 6-foot-3 defender did in his first summer as part of an NHL organization.
“I always try to work on my skating. Being a big defenseman, obviously, puts you at a little bit of a disadvantage if you don’t have the speed that some of these small forwards have. So changing directions, stuff like that in the corners, killing plays in the corners, having a good stick. That’s a big thing that we’ve been talking about lots,” he shared. “Then just reading the play. I don’t need to panic when I’m out there in the offensive zone.”
Once again, Cicek is on the same page with the San Jose Sharks organization.
“Striving on ending plays in the D-zone, being hard to play against, box outs, one-on-one battles, all those kind of those details, if you can do those at an NHL level in our games, I think that’s gonna open the door for him,” McCarthy said.
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