AARON HICKEY has been in the news a fair bit recently. Rumours have been circulating that Rangers are interested in the full-back, a host of English clubs are said to be tracking the youngster and Hearts manager Craig Levein has revealed that negotiations are currently ongoing to tie the 17-year-old down to a new deal at Tynecastle.

The left-back has become a mainstay in the Gorgie club's starting XI since bursting onto the scene against Celtic at the end of last season and his performance in the Scottish Cup final in particular made Scottish football fans sit up and take notice of Hickey's obvious talents.

The left-back doesn't yet have an extensive back catalogue of performances that we can analyse but from what he has demonstrated so far, Hickey looks to be a very exciting prospect indeed.

HeraldScotland:

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Full-backs will, of course, always be judged primarily on their defensive ability and when we compare Hickey's fundamental defensive stats to the Premiership's other first-choice left-backs, it is abundantly clear why there is a buzz about the former Celtic youth product.

Only Livingston's Jack McMillan (8.59) attempts more defensive duels per game than Hickey (8.09) does on average, and the Hearts youngster's total successful defensive actions per match (7.28) is only bettered by St Johnstone's Scott Tanser (8.91) and St Mirren's Calum Waters (8.33).

Additionally, Hickey is the fifth-best left-back in the league when ranked by the number of interceptions completed over the course of an average game, although he could be a little more composed in the tackle; only two players (Boli Bolingoli and Niko Hamalainen) commit more fouls per game than the Hearts left-back. Hickey could also do a little better in the air - he wins just under one in three of his aerial duels.

What this data tells us is that Hickey, despite his tender years, is already matching some of the league's established left-backs in some of the most fundamental aspects of defensive phases of play. There are areas where he can clearly improve but this is perfectly natural for a 17-year-old. It is still early days in this campaign but if Hickey can maintain his excellent start to senior football - and there isn't much to suggest that he can't - then, defensively-speaking, he has a fantastic foundation from which to build.

In the modern game, though, full-backs are also tasked with contributing to to their team's attacks so it is important to see how Hickey fares in this sense, too. Again, there are areas where Hickey struggles a little here but others where he is among the best in the Premiership.

HeraldScotland:

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Hickey rarely crosses the ball and is accurate just 29% of the time when he does - one of the lowest success rates in the top flight. But to counter-balance this, Hickey has the fourth-highest average number of dribbles attempted in the division as well as the fourth-highest dribbling success rate of 60%, only marginally behind Borna Barisic (62.5%), Bolingoli (61.2%) and Motherwell's Jake Carroll (60.7%).

Hickey's relatively low crossing stats might lead one to believe that he is perhaps lacking technical ability, but a quick look at his passing this season contradicts this assumption. The full-back averages 32.4 passes per match - only two players hit fewer - but the young Scot boasts the highest passing accuracy of any of the Premiership's left-backs with an accuracy rate of 84%.

What this all shows is that while there are a few areas of his game where Hickey can still improve - as you would expect in any 17-year-old - there is no question that Hearts fans are right to be excited about the defender's future. At this early stage of the season, playing for a Hearts side that haven't exactly set the league alight, Hickey is more than holding his own against the best left-backs Scotland has to offer.

His fledgling career is certainly one worth watching. In the case of Hickey, we absolutely should believe the hype.