NHL 2010 Top Draft Prospects: Calvin Pickard

Mikko Koskinen. Chet Pickard. Joel Gistedt. Jonathan Bernier. Tuukka Rask.

What do all of these players have in common? They were each the first goaltender taken in their respective drafts since the lockout.

When Calvin Pickard becomes the next player added to that list, will he be on the side of goaltenders who made a difference? Or will he turn into another no-name, washed-up goaltender who just didn’t have what it takes?

“He’s a solid goalie,” one scout said in an interview with NHL.com. “He’s not really a huge goalie (6-foot, 200 pounds), but he plays big. His positional play is excellent; he reads the play very good. His net coverage is exceptional. He’s smart, he’s strong, got those good goalie instincts. He’s a very confident goalie, plays calm and relaxed. His positional play is excellent. He always seems to give himself a chance to stop the puck. Always seems to know where to be. Very smart.”

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound goaltender for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds had a sub-par rookie season in the CHL, going 23-16-5 with a 3.05 goals against average and a .896 save percentage. He improved his personal stats in his sophomore season, though, as he increased his save percentage to .914 while playing on a team that was far from making the playoffs. From the time he joined the Thunderbirds as a rookie, his coach knew he had something special.

“When he came to his first training camp at 15, he didn’t let in a goal,” said Seattle coach Rob Sumner to the NHL. “We had scrimmages with stats in the evening and he didn’t let in a goal in training camp and that makes an impression. And he played very well and very hard. An impression was made at a very early stage.

“We felt comfortable he’d be able to step in at 16 and be successful,” said Sumner. “Whether I can sit here and say 47 games and really be the backbone of our team in important stretches last year, I don’t know if I could say that. But he did do that and show that.”

The Winnipeg, Manitoba native, and brother of 2008 first-rounder Chet Pickard has been ranked the top North American goalie since the beginning of the season. He has much to improve on, but scouts know that he has something special going on.

“Pickard did get a lot of shots this year, but he plays so consistent despite getting bombarded,” the scout continued. “As a scout I have no control over whether a kid is getting 45 shots or 15 shots. So I watch them practice and in warm-ups. I watch areas of their game that you need to have to get to the NHL level — how they move and present themselves in the net. How they are with their teammates? Most goalies hate to be scored on, even in practice. As a scout, you can see that. See their technique and ability to move in the net.”

His talent and potential, mixed with the fact that he has performed so well on such a, relatively speaking, bad team, speaks wonders to the upside to drafting Pickard in this year’s draft. Don’t expect him to be picked until earliest the 25th pick or so, but also don’t expect any other goaltender’s name to be called until Calvin puts on that NHL jersey on the podium.

Alan Bass is a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com. In addition to writing for Inside Hockey and Pro Hockey News, he has also worked for the Philadelphia Flyers. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College hockey team as well. You can contact him at BergHockey24@gmail.com.

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