Chet Pickard is the Nashville Predators‘ top goaltending prospect. After four years with the WHL Tri-City Americans, where he won the CHL goaltender of the year in 2007-08 and WHL goaltender of the year award for the last two years, it’s time to move on.
Pickard signed a contract with the Predators last December, and is expected to play most of the upcoming season with AHL affiliate Milwaukee Admirals.
Chet’s brother Calvin Pickard, 17, is following in his brother’s footsteps and the 6’1 goalie already being ranked in the Top 30 for the 2010 NHL entry draft. Chet, 6’2, was taken 18th overall in 2008.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Pickard after his exit interview from Predators conditioning camp yesterday.
HF: You had a goalie coach in Tri-City, Jerry Price [father of Carey Price], how is what he worked with you on different from what you do with [Nashville’s goalie coach] Mitch Korn?
CP: I think Jerry’s more trying to teach guys about the game, different styles you can play, different ways of stopping the puck. Mitch adapts to our styles and pushes us to do things like be quicker, work harder, so we’re better prepared for the pro level. In my case, me and Mitch are really working on me getting quicker. We’re not focusing on how I make a save, it’s more just quickness.
HF: How many other goalies have you worked with over your career?
CP: I’ve worked with lots. I think a guy I really owe a lot to is Rick St. Croix [currently goaltending coach of the AHL Manitoba Moose]. He’s from Winnipeg, he played in the NHL. I’ve worked with Dave Marcoux from the Flames. Eli Wilson, who’s the goalie coach for the Senators. I’ve worked with lots of guys. It’s kind of nice because you can take something from every guy you’ve worked with and apply it to your game if you can.
HF: You’re helping with some goalie camps this summer?
CP: There’s a couple local camps in Winnipeg where I’m helping out. With Rick St. Croix, who’s a guy who’s a mentor to me, he helped me out a lot when I was younger and still does to this day. I’ll be helping out there, more just speaking to them. I’ll go on the ice a bit. I enjoy doing that.
HF: What do you say to the little goalies?
CP: Kind of just tell them stories, I mean I’m still young, I’m only 19, but I’ve gone through a lot with the combine, the draft, being in a couple NHL camps. I can share some stuff. I’ve been cut by teams, that sort of thing. I’m not an inspirational speaker by any means, but it’s fun to tell younger kids stories and show them that regardless of where they’re playing right now, that they’ve got a chance.
HF: Who cut you?
CP: Actually me and Colin Wilson were both cut from the same AAA team in Winnipeg one year. It was the year after our [bantam] draft year (age 15). We both worked hard, thought we were going to make the team through camp because we both had great camps and both of us were the last cuts. It was one of those things were you can get mad about it — and I was mad about it — but it just pushed us harder. They were like ‘oh yeah you guys will be back next year for sure.’ and we were like ‘we don’t want to be here next year, we want to be moving on,’ and sure enough we moved past that level, so it was nice.
HF: Your brother Calvin, did he learn to play goal from the same people you did?
CP: Yeah, pretty much. Rick St. Croix helps him out a lot, when we younger and still does. My brother, I don’t really know what made him turn to be a goalie. He’s very good, very naturally talented. I try to help him out as much as I can. He helps me out. It’s a good relationship we have, not only just as brothers obviously, but we can related to almost every aspect of our lives.
HF: Did he get your hand-me-down pads growing up?
CP: No, he’s a bit shorter than I am so it wouldn’t have worked. If you don’t have the right sized pads as a goalie, it doesn’t work. So no it never worked out, unfortunately.
HF: How has it gone in one-on-one competition with him?
CP: This past year we played against each other in the Western Hockey League. He was in Seattle and I was in Tri’s net. We played against each other four times this year, which was pretty special, the first time it’s ever been done in the Canadian Hockey League. It was a pretty big deal. It was obviously really exciting for our family. But I managed to beat him all four times. That was important (smiles).
HF: Is he similar in technique as you?
CP: We both kind of play a similar style. We’re both very technical goalies, like to play the puck. We’re both relaxed when we’re in the net and I think that’s a bid thing for a goalie these days. I think that’s something I kind of taught him after it was taught to me.
HF: How is he different from you?
CP: It seems like he was a little more naturally talented. I feel like I’ve had to work hard to get where I am, to have success, of the little bit of success that I’ve had. It’s one of those things where I don’t know what it is, but he just kind of one day put on the pads and he was good.
HF: This year you’re probably moving up to Milwaukee, have you got designs on a new mask yet?
CP: I’ve got a guy from Sweden, this guy named Dave Gunnarsson, who does a really good job with masks. He has a mask there for me. We haven’t quite decided on anything yet. I want something unique. Because you never know where you’re going to be playing. You could be up and down. Obviously my goal is to make Nashville, that’s what anyone’s goal is, but in reality probably Milwaukee but I don’t want to say that. So we kind of have a mix between both teams. I’m kind of excited once he has the full design sketched out and we’ll go from there.