by Doug Plagens | AHL On The Beat Archive
When the Lake Erie Monsters closed out the Rockford IceHogs for a 3-2 win at Quicken Loans Arena on February 20th, goalie Calvin Pickard tied the Monsters’ all-time lead with 50 victories.
The accomplishment was another high point in a busy season for Pickard; a campaign in which he has caught attention not only in the American Hockey League, but also in his first taste of National Hockey League action.
Pickard, the 49th overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft by Colorado, made his NHL debut on October 16th for the Avalanche in a relief appearance in Ottawa, started a road game on Hockey Night in Canada against Montreal two nights later, and also registered shutouts in back-to-back starts on November 22nd and 25th; his third and fourth NHL appearances.
The season has been a whirlwind, but Pickard notes that he’ll remember his earliest NHL experiences forever.
“My first few minutes in the game against Ottawa were pretty eye-opening, but my first start in Montreal was special. I’ll look back on it the rest of my life,” Pickard said.
For a lot of players, juggling the back-and-forth schedule this season could have been difficult. Pickard’s most recent promotion to the Avalanche was his fourth NHL recall this season. But for the third-year professional, it’s all part of the job.
“Anywhere you are, you want to put your best foot forward. I’ve had the opportunity to play a lot in [Denver and Cleveland]. It’s been nice getting to play a lot up there, and be a part of the playoff push here. It has been exciting,” Pickard said.
“In his situations, he was going up to play; very rewarding for him, very exciting for us. That’s what we want to do; win as many games as we can down here, but we want to develop these guys so they see what it takes to win at the next level. Every time he has gone up and come back down, it has given a lot of fuel to him to continue his growth and development,” said Monsters Head Coach Dean Chynoweth
Pickard, who doesn’t turn 23 until April 15th, still leads all NHL goalies who have appeared in at least 15 games with a .936 save percentage this season. Away from the stats, Pickard has grown in his role as a leader in the dressing room.
“It’s an opportunity I like to grasp. I like being a leader, and being a goalie, you’re in a unique position. I’ve been here three years now, I’m familiar with the city and the staff, and it’s nice to handle that leadership role,” Pickard said.
“He’s very competitive and he holds the other guys accountable. He likes to be in the net. He doesn’t like pucks getting by him, and it shows even in practice; he goes about it with that approach. Goalies have to want to be in the net and have that mentality to get better,” Chynoweth said.
In Cleveland, Pickard has become a fan favorite, and he’s grateful for the time he has spent in Northeast Ohio.
“One thing that’s good for me is I’ve had a lot of time in the water; I’ve played quite a few games each season. I thought we’ve had good teams the last few years but just fell short of the playoffs,” Pickard said. “To have this city behind us with the crowds we have, and the staff is great here; it makes me comfortable.”
Pickard has 14 wins in the AHL through February 23rd, and has a 6-6-3 record with a 2.18 goals against average in 15 NHL appearances this season. He’s steadily climbing every Monsters goaltending chart. For Pickard though, who has seen the Monsters come close to the postseason, his goal is simple for the stretch run.
“I want to get into the playoffs. We haven’t made the playoffs here the last couple years," he said. "We’re going to do whatever it takes."