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Predators prospect on the rise - Chet Pickard

I've been very fortunate over the last few months to tap into some great guest bloggers for the scoop on prospects in the Predators organization, and today, Jennifer Hammer from I Mean, We Got Guys... brings us a look at Chet Pickard, the goaltender selected by Nashville with the 18th overall selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Chet just wrapped up his junior career with the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League (where he was named Goaltender of the Year), and has now joined the Milwaukee Admirals for their drive through the AHL playoffs.  In addition to Jennifer's piece she also points us to this great interview conducted with Chet recently, as he watches the Admirals from the press box, and looks forward to competing for a roster spot in the fall.

So take it away, Jennifer...

When last I sent in info on Pickard it was back in early December.  At the time of that writing, Chet was off at World Juniors camp, getting ready for the big tournament.

At WJC, Chet played against "minor" opponents Germany and Kazakhstan.  Then, much to my personal dismay, Canada coach Pat Quinn went with WHL goalie rival, Dustin Tokarski.  Sure, Chet got a gold medal also, but you know it stung with Tokarski playing most of the games.

Upon his return from WJC, Pickard was in a bit of a slump.  Unfortunately, the WHL site won't let you see game by game stats.  Regardless, he wasn't in true Pickard form, not that I really blame him after getting shunned in Ottawa. It was like he was (barely) going throught the motions, putting in his time until he could get out of Tri-Cities.

In February, Nashville goalie guru Mitch Korn headed to Tri-Cities to work with Chet (and backups Brett Martyniuk and Drew Owsley). I don't know what Korn said to him, but it worked.  I imagine it was along the lines of "who cares if you have an entry-level contract, if you keep sucking at this level, you're not going to be in the Nashville system any time soon."  Y'know, something along those lines. 

In February Chet was voted Best Goaltender in the Best of the West poll, voted on by players in the Western Conference of the WHL. 

At a game in Spokane on February 28, it happened--THE HIT.  As a result of being hit by a truck getting run by Ryan Letts, Chet suffered a concussion and did not play again until the first round of playoffs, March 20.  Based on his performance in the playoffs, I'm not confident he was completely healed from the concussion.

The Americans did end up with first place in the US Division.  They faced the Everett Silvertips in the first round and ended the series in 5 games.  He played well, the AMS were definitely the stronger team.  Chet's timing was a little off the first 2 games, but overall had a good performance.

For the second round, the AMS squared off against the Kelowna Rockets, one of the hottest teams in the WHL the second half of the season.  The Rockets are a larger, more physical team and used that physicality to their benefit.  As a result, the injuries piled up.  What did that mean for Chet?  With players out with injuries lines and defensive pairings were shuffled, leading to miscommunications.  It left Pickard very vulnerable on the back end.  This is where I'm convinced he wasn't 100% after the concussion.  Had he been, he would have been able to better withstand the barrage by the Rockets.  He did well, had more than several pretty amazing saves.  In the end, he was only one goalie with a broken, battered team in front of him, and possibly a still sore noggin. 

The playoff loss upset poor Chetters, coach pulled him in the last game when they were losing and he was pretty grief-stricken on the bench.  He holds himself to a very high standard and I'm sure he put a lot of (undue) blame on himself for the team being ousted from the playoffs.  Plus he knew it was (probably) his last game in an AMS sweater. For four years Chet Pickard has proudly been a Tri-City American.  He took advantage of every opportunity given to him, learning from being Carey Price's backup, working with co-owner Olie Kolzig, and constantly challenging himself to be a better goaltender.  In April, and for the 2nd year in the row, he earned the honor of being WHL Goaltender of the Year.

I understand Chet's desire to move on, I mean, that is the ultimate goal (no pun intended).  But I will admit it'll be tough not seeing him in net for the AMS any more.  It's been an honor and a pleasure to see him mature as a goalie and as a person.  In the near future, Milwaukee fans should start getting excited about having him as their goalie and then on to Nashville.  I know he's chomping at the bit to get into the big show, but as evidenced with even the great Carey Price, you can't rush goalies.  They just simply take a bit longer to develop, and that's fine.  It'll be worth the wait Preds fans!

Thanks again to Jennifer for giving Nashville fans an update on a player we hope to see a great deal from in the coming years.