NHL Prospect Report: Has Calvin Pickard Emerged As A Viable NHL Goaltender?

by Ray Kuhn

If Calvin Pickard wasn’t a name on your radar you are forgiven. The 23-year old goaltender was drafted in the second round by the Colorado Avalanche in 2010 and has since managed to fly under the radar. A large reason is because he was viewed as more of an organizational depth option than anything else. While he had NHL potential, he wasn’t viewed as a transformational player.

However, after the struggles Seymon Varlamov has been having, Pickard is now being counted on to help lead the Avalanche to the playoffs. Pickard spent four seasons in the WHL, to moderate success, before spending the next two years in the AHL. He has subsequently split his last two seasons between the AHL and the NHL with the Avalanche, but this is the first time Colorado is truly counting on him as a solution.

When Pickard did get his chance last season (16 games), he put up his best professional GAA and save percentage; 2.35 and .932. After starting the season once again in the AHL, he has found himself back with the Avalanche and this time it might be to stay.

Pickard has replaced Varlamov twice in the past eight games, and it appears Patrick Roy has made the decision permanent. Roy had this to say about Pickard after making the move (click here for the article):

“(Pickard) competes hard,” Roy said of the young goaltender. “It’s all about hard work for him. He has to be proud of himself because he has forced us to keep him, and now he’s having an opportunity to play.”

Before the season this seemed unlikely, but Pickard has shown that he deserves the opportunity. After he replaced Varlamov, who allowed three goals in 12 shots on Tuesday, Pickard was slated to start on Thursday. He has won two of his last four games while allowing just seven goals on 94 shots.

At this point Pickard will likely be given as much rope as he can handle, but I’m not sure he will ever be an All-Star. The Hockey News had this to say in their scouting report (click here to view):

Assets: Owns a projectable frame, as well as the ability to be a workhorse starting netminder at lower levels. Is fairly economical in his overall movement in the crease area.
Flaws: Could stand to fill out his 6-1 frame in order to maximize his starting goaltender potential for the National Hockey League game. Must also curb his penchant for letting in soft goals.
Career Potential: Solid goaltender with upside.

At this point in the season you have to like goaltenders that are in the midst of a hot streak, but it remains to be seen how long it will truly last. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Varlamov back between the pipes before the season is out, but Pickard is in line for at least a solid NHL career.

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