Preds’ Pickard eager to show improvement

Monday, June 30, 2008 at 1:22am
Chet Pickard has impressed Preds goaltending coach Mitch Korn so far. Mike Strasinger for The City Paper

Goaltender Chet Pickard has been known as the other first-round draft pick for the Nashville Predators this past week as forward Colin Wilson, the first pick for the team, received the bulk of the media and fan attention.

Pickard, the No. 18 pick, and Wilson, the No. 7 selection, are best friends dating back to their childhoods in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They not only were first-round picks of the Predators at the NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa, but they are also expected to one day play in the NHL.

Pickard has to go back to the Tri-City Americans for one more season. The team is partially owned by NHL goaltender Olaf Kolzig. Pickard is often compared to Kolzig as well as Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price. Pickard was the back-up to Price for two seasons.

The out-going Pickard welcomes the comparisons.

“I take it as a compliment to be compared to anyone who has played in the NHL,” said Pickard. “I learned a lot from Carey. Kolzig has had a great career in the NHL.

“There have been a lot of comparisons, not only because of our size and our physical ability. I think we are all pretty sound technically. I relate to Carey because we are smooth technically and we are both relaxed and calm out on the ice.”

The week of development work with the Predators has been a reunion of sorts for Pickard and Predators goaltender Mitch Korn.

“I worked with him in a summer camp three years ago,” Pickard said. “I wasn’t as good as I am now.

“He really focused on me hitting the ice harder, closing up the five-hole and being more explosive. I hope he has seen that I have improved quite a bit in those areas.”

Korn also worked with Pickard in Edmonton a few years ago. And that summer camp Pickard referred to is actually a prospects camp that Korn operates in Buffalo. Korn operates summer camps across both the United States and Canada and is also the author of a number of articles on the subject.

“I was excited to see Chet again and I was excited to see him one the ice,” Korn said. “Change is good. It is refreshing to work with the new players.

“Chris Mason and I were together for 10 years. Tomas Vokoun and I were together for seven or eight years. It is neat to get some new blood in.”

Korn was also pleased to see that Pickard has definitely improved since he was 15 years of age.

“I’m pretty pleased with the way he has progressed with his skating ability and his technique,” Korn said. “He was not an explosive goalie when we met.

“His lower body wasn’t strong. His core wasn’t strong. He is becoming much more of an explosive goalie.”

Pickard’s 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame is expected to be an asset.

“It is a matter of square footage,” Korn said. “You need skill as a goaltender. You can’t play without skill. But in certain situations with pucks making their way through traffic you have to block space and size becomes important. You can’t get around it.

“The biggest improvement I want from him is to not lock into shots. He locks in on shots. When a guy is ready to shoot, Pickard will get really wide and lock his ankles. His weight is on the inside of his pads and off of his blades. If the puck goes left-to-right he is frozen. If he makes a save and goes to get a rebound he has to get back to his blades, which takes too long. He needs to shorten it up.”

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