Kukla's Korner

Hammer-time for Chet Pickard

Now that the NHL season is getting into the December/January/February slog that looks more like a marathon than a sprint, I thought it would be a good time to get an update on Chet Pickard, the goaltender selected by the Nashville Predators in the first round of last summer’s NHL Entry Draft.

In order to get the real scoop on how Pickard is doing with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL, I went (where else?) to a blogger who covers the team; Jennifer Hammer, of I Mean, We Got Guys… which has covers the Americans as well as the NHL at large.  So, without further ado, here’s Jennifer:

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Preds fans may be wondering what their 2008, 18th overall Draft Pick goalie Chet Pickard has been up to.  In one word: WINNING.

As of this writing (December 12, 2008) he is sporting a .914 save percentage, 3 shutouts on the season, 27 of 32 regular season games played (he’s a workhorse), and a record of 18-7-0-2.

His hard work isn’t going unnoticed either.  Currently Pickard is at Team Canada’s World Junior camp, where he’s pretty much a sure thing to make the final roster.

From Hockey Canada’s WJC Selection Camp notes:

2008-09: In his fourth season with Tri-City ... 2007-08: Named the WHL and CHL Goaltender of the Year ... Named to the WHL Western Conference First All-Star Team ... Led all WHL goaltenders with 46 wins, becoming only the sixth goaltender in WHL history to register more than 45 wins in a single season ... 2006-07: Helped Tri-City to a franchise-record 47 victories in his second season in the WHL … Played in 29 games as Tri-City’s backup behind Carey Price … 2005-06: Was named Tri-City’s Most Improved Player.

With his impressive season so far he has also surpassed Carey Price as the winningest goaltender in Tri-City Americans’ history (91 as of today).  It should be noted that Chet has had much better teams in front of him the last couple seasons than Price ever did.

Just this week Pickard was named CHL Goaltender of the Week.  In addition he (and the team) made Sportsnet.ca’s Hot List.  Excerpts include:

The Canadian Hockey League today announced that Chet Pickard of the Tri-City Americans is the ADT CHL Goaltender of the Week for the week ending December 7. Pickard posted a goals-against-average of 0.67 with a save percentage of .976 in three games.

Pickard backstopped the Americans to a 3-0-0-0 record this week including a 3-0 shutout win to open the week Wednesday night against the Kootenay Ice. Pickard was the first star of the game with his 26 save performance earning his third shutout of the season. Pickard would make 22 saves on Friday night in a 6-1 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds. His toughest test came on Saturday night competing against the WHL’s top ranked Calgary Hitmen. Pickard was outstanding kicking aside 35 shots and was named the first star of the game in the 4-1 win. The Americans have now won eight straight games and sit atop the WHL’s U.S. Division with 46 points.

and from Sportsnet:

Hot team: Tri-City Americans
After starting the season slow, the Tri-City Americans are beginning to show the potential of a champion this season, winning their last eight games. The Americans won all three games last week as their goaltender, Chet Pickard, put up a performance worthy of consideration for the ADT CHL Goaltender of the Week. Tri-City is beginning to pull away from Spokane for the U.S. Division and now trail Vancouver by five points for top spot in the Western Conference.

Hot player: Chet Pickard, Tri-City Americans
Perhaps buoyed by being named to Hockey Canada’s selection camp, Pickard was nearly unbeatable last week. He recorded a 26 save shutout on Wednesday, the day he was named to the camp, while only allowing two goals in three games on the week. He posted a sparkling 0.976 save percentage on the week as he puts his best foot forward in pursuit of a spot on the national junior team.

I’ve watched this kid grow and develop as a goaltender.  He had an excellent mentor in Carey Price.  Just like Price, Pickard has a cool head on his shoulders, does not get easily rattled.  He plays with passion and purpose.  His strength and conditioning is enviable and provides him the ability to play so many minutes.  I mean, seriously, this guy is absolutely ripped.

Over the last couple seasons, I would have to say Chet’s biggest weakness is his knack for letting in at least one softy per game.  This season, the number of softies has decreased, maybe one every 2-3 games.  Part of this is due to a defensive corps that is, well, unexceptional.  They aren’t terrible (for the most part) just not any one big name guy like a Tyler Myers or a Jared Cowan, it’s defense by committee.  And sometimes the committee hasn’t given Chet a lot of help.  It was worse at the beginning of the season when the chemistry wasn’t quite there, but has come along nicely and has limited the number of shots faced by Pickard most nights.

Chet was disappointed not to stay in Nashville longer after training camp, but I’m sure he knows the reality of goalies rarely making it into the big show at such a young age.  He’ll have his chance, he’ll be a great goalie in the NHL, Nashville fans have a bright future in net.

I would like to close with another Sportsnet feature about just how silly my goalie is:

Captain Pickard?

A recurring practical joke by Tri-City Americans forward Jason Reese became a reality last week.

Reese has been jokingly saying Chet Pickard should be the captain of the Americans after the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League named their goaltender, Roberto Luongo, captain in the summer. NHL rules stipulate Luongo is not allowed to wear the letter on his jersey so a small ‘C’ was placed at the chin of his mask, a ‘C’ that has shown up on Pickard’s mask at times.

“(Reese) has been doing that all year,” Pickard said. “A couple times before warm up I’d go to put my helmet on and he’d tape a ‘C’ on my helmet.”

Taylor Procyshen is the Americans’ captain but on Wednesday, Dec. 3, that’s not how it showed up on the online stats game-sheet. Pickard mistakenly had the ‘C’ next to his name instead of Procyshen. The mistake has since been fixed by the league but not before the players noticed.

“We were joking around that we’re going to have a press conference the next day announcing I’m the new captain as a joke,” Pickard said.

As one of the NHL’s top developmental leagues, the Western Hockey League has many of the same rules. Among them is the same rule dictating that goaltenders may not wear letters. The league acknowledged, however, that it could be possible for a member team to follow in Vancouver’s footsteps, so long as the letter does not show up on the jersey.

Given how important the role of a goaltender has become to a team, compared to several decades ago when the rule was placed, the misprint on the game-sheet sparked some interesting arguments.

“I think there should be a rule where goalies can be captains,” Pickard said. “When I think of the Vancouver Canucks, I think of Roberto Luongo.”

“I’m not a trendsetter when it comes to things like that,” Americans head coach Don Nachbaur said. “Ultimately as a coach what I do is, when you have a guy of (Pickard’s) stature you don’t exclude him from team meetings, your leadership meetings, your moments when things can be said. We expect everybody to be equal in that part regardless of whether you’re a goaltender, a defenceman or a forward. Everybody has that ability to be a leader and Chet is definitely a big part of what we do here.”

If he were ever named captain of a team, Pickard said it wouldn’t change his temperament one bit.

“It would be cool to be captain of a team, especially a goalie,” he said. “You don’t see that very often but I think it’s something you have to earn showing what kind of person you are not only at the rink but away from the rink.”

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Special thanks to Jennifer again for providing this piece!

Filed in: Nashville Predators, | On the Forecheck | Permalink
 

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