Picard’s progress on schedule in Lewiston

By Matt MacInnis

When you’re one of three players who share the same name in the same major junior hockey league, there is bound to be a lot of confusion surrounding you. Alexandre Picard (CBJ) knows all about that, but when his name was called in Raleigh, North Carolina, on June 26, 2004, the entire world knew who the Columbus Blue Jackets had just selected. It was a big day full of surprises for the feisty winger who plays for the Lewiston MAINEiacs of the QMJHL.

“It was good. All my family came down. A big bus, like a 28-person bus, came from a 24-hour drive to cheer for me. It was good when I heard my name with Columbus, a young team like that I was so happy. It was the best day of my life,” Picard told Hockey’s Future after playing a tough game against the QMJHL’s top team, the Moncton Wildcats in front of Blue Jackets GM Doug MacLean and Director of Player Development Paul Caston.

Picard said he did not pay any attention to the preseason projections done by scouting agencies and where they placed him. He did, he admits, take a look at the end of the season, although he did not want to know who was going to pick him come draft day.

“I told my agent don’t tell me nothing before the draft because I want it to be a surprise. When my name was picked, it was a big surprise.”

The 19-year-old scored 39 goals, 41 assists for a total of 80 points in 69 games in his draft year. He also racked up 88 PIM. In the MAINEiacs exciting seven-game playoff series against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, Picard scored seven times and had four helpers. Despite his good offensive numbers last season, Picard has not set any statistical goals for himself for this crucial season of his development.

“I don’t put pressure on myself. I just want to win, and the points, the goals and that stuff will come,” asserted Picard.

If not for the NHL lockout, there is a chance Picard would be playing for the Blue Jackets right now. GM MacLean admitted to Hockey’s Future that Picard would have had a shot at making the pro team straight out of the draft because the organization is building and tends to have open spots for young players. Picard said although he wants to make the NHL next year, he tries not to think about where he might play next season and in order to focus on the present.

“I hope (to play in) Columbus, I work hard for that. But there are the big issues this season. I am going to give 100 percent each night and play for this season.”

Picard has shown that he is able to produce points in the QMJHL. He is not, however, the typical scorer that emerges from Canada’s eastern-most major junior hockey league. At 6’2, 190 lbs, the teenager still has some filling out to do, but is certainly not under-sized and a far cry from soft. The grinding winger finishes all his checks and is one of the best in the league along the boards. His in-your-face style grates on his opponents and frequently draws the ire of the toughest players.

When in Moncton, Picard followed up on a puck covered by Wildcats goaltender Corey Crawford (CHI) and got a little too close to the crease for the liking of Nathan Saunders (ANA), the Wildcats most imposing presence. Both players were penalized for their part in the ensuing fracas, and spent the duration of the two minutes mouthing off to each other.

When asked after the game about the confrontation with Saunders, Picard just smiled and laughed. It was just another game for the aggressive prospect. Picard is aware that he has been compared to “Captain Canada” Ryan Smyth.

“A lot of people compare me to Ryan Smyth. He’s a grinder, he finishes his check and he can score.”

Picard started off slowly this season, but currently sits in the top ten in QMJHL goal scoring and in the league’s top 15 for points. He said he is happy with his play thus far this season, but continues to work on his defensive play, although many feel his strong two-way play is what made him a top ten draft pick.

“I work a lot on my defensive play. I know it’s one of my weaknesses, but I work a lot in practice with Clem (Head Coach Clem Jodain).”

He admitted that he follows the progress of other Blue Jackets prospects, especially fellow 2004 draft pick Adam Pineault (CLB).

“He’s one of my good friends too. I met him this summer and he’s a great player. I hope I’m going to play with him in the future.”

Picard may have had another opportunity to play against his future teammate in the World Junior Championships but unfortunately was not chosen to attend the Canadian tryout camp. Picard will continue to help the MAINEiacs get closer to making the QMJHL playoffs in what is most likely his final junior season.

There are some concerns that Picard’s reckless abandon style of play will result in a lot of injuries and a shortened professional career. In 29 games this year he has 18 goals and a totalled of 38 points. He has, however, missed four games this year due to injuries.

Picard has a very good chance at breaking into the NHL next year and most likely playing predominantly on a checking line until he gets a little bit stronger. Longterm, he has the potential of being a physical winger who can play on the first or second line of a team.

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.