The 23-year-old wing, who featured in three tour matches but none of the tests against the Qantas Wallabies, broke a bone in his foot during last weekend's Heineken Cup defeat to Edinburgh and faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
He will miss Ireland's autumn internationals but Hickie, who toured New Zealand with the Lions in 2005, believes Zebo will now be an even greater threat at next year's Six Nations.
"He had a big season last year, really bursting onto the scene for Ireland during the Six Nations, going on the tour with the Irish team and then getting the call from the Lions," Hickie told the Irish Independent.
"He hasn't had a huge amount of rest and my view on it is that during the ten weeks, he might get the rest he needs and maybe didn't get.
"Of course, he'd prefer to be playing, but I could see him coming back and playing a big 6 Nations because he will be fresh and others won't be.
"People's expectations of Simon Zebo are based on what he has done and I think he seems to be comfortable with that level of expectation.
"This is a setback, but I can see him coming back and having a strong second half to the season."