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Chet Pickard Ask A Pro: Battling back from ‘Rock Bottom’ in ECHL

Chet Pickard Ask A Pro: Battling back from ‘Rock Bottom’ in ECHL

Nashville Predators Goalie prospect Chet Pickard

Predators puck-stopping prospect Chet Pickard is battling back from 'rock bottom' after going from first-round pick to the ECHL and sixth on the Nashville depth chart. (InGoal Photo)

Chet Pickard is exactly where he expected to be two seasons into his professional puck-stopping career, sitting in an National Hockey League locker room, shedding his sweat-soaked gear after another hard practice with the Nashville Predators team that drafted him in the first round, 18th overall, in 2008.

Unfortunately Pickard’s ascension to the NHL has been nothing like he planned.

The polar opposite, in fact.

Pickard was with the Predators to start the second round of the playoffs after being called all the way up from the ECHL, where he spent most of a miserable season compiling a 9-14-3 record, 3.39 goals-against average, and .877 save percentage. He was called up to help ease the workload on Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback, who was fighting a nagging injury, in part because the Predators’ American League affiliate in Milwaukee was still in the playoffs.

That Pickard wasn’t part of that postseason run is tough enough to take. That he was fourth on the Admirals depth chart – behind Mark Dekanich, Jeremy Smith and late-season Finnish import Atte Engren – makes it even harder.

“Rock bottom,” was how Pickard described his drop from top prospect to struggling in the ECHL.

That the 21-year-old is so upbeat as he begins to remove his layers of Vaughn equipment is revealing. So too is the brutal honesty about how his season has gone, the role his ego and poor attitude played in a downward spiral that saw him go nine months and 18 games without a professional win, and the determination to turn things around.

For a highly touted goaltender that dominated while being named the Canadian Junior Hockey Goaltender of the Year in 2007-08, his first year as the starter after two backing up Carey Price with the Tri-City Americans, and was part of a gold-medal winning Canadian World Junior squad, playing twice but backing up Dustin Tokarski in the medal rounds, it has been a precipitous fall from grace. The spotlight and expectations from his past don’t help.

Pickard, who came into training camp talking about winning the Predators’ backup job, took some time to sit down with InGoal Magazine and talk – with admirable openness – about where he’s at now, how he got there, and what he’s doing to get back (including dropping 15-20 pounds already) in this week’s Ask A Pro.

Chet Pickard:

Nashville Predators Goalie prospect Chet Pickard

Chet Pickard got to put the Predators jersey back on as a playoff call up after spending most of the season in the ECHL. (InGoal photo)

“It’s been a frustrating year. Obviously it didn’t go the way I wanted it to go, and I learned a lot. I learned more than I’ve ever learned. Going into camp my goal was to make this team and that didn’t work, and I went to Milwaukee and my goal was to get off to a great start, and I had a bad first game. And when you get to professional hockey it’s all about winning and I just wasn’t playing great, and one thing led to another, I was sent down to the East Coast, and that’s where I started pointing fingers at other people.

“It was my fault there for a while because I was blaming other people when really I needed to just go there and focus on hockey and stopping the puck. But I was focused on all these other things. And I guess that’s kind of when I hit rock bottom. I went on a four-game losing streak to start there, and then is started talking to people and taking advice and kind of got over myself and my ego and that sort of thing and I just started to accept the fact I was there and for good reasons.

“I know everybody here in the Predators organization believes in me, and that’s the biggest thing. So I just started to work. I worked the hardest I ever worked on and off the ice, and as the year went on I wasn’t getting results on the ice, I wasn’t winning games, but it was just me and I needed to learn some things and I did learn a lot, and hopefully I can restart and it gets better from now.”

~ Was it harder because of your status as a first-round pick, maybe a sense of ‘what am I doing in ECHL?’

Chet Pickard:

“For me it was tough. I’ve always been really hard on myself. I’ve always had really high expectations for myself and I played junior with Carey Price and I saw him go right from junior into the NHL and right into the spotlight. Whether it was the right thing for him no one will ever know, but look at him now, he’s playing great.

Nashville Predators Goalie prospect Chet Pickard

Chet Pickard worked hard with goalie coach Mitch Korn every day during his call up to improve his game. (InGoal Photo)

“So my expectations coming out of junior were ‘I am going to play in the NHL next year.’ And my first year pro I was blessed with a great opportunity to be with Milwaukee all year (backing up Dekanich). I had good stretches, I played really good games in stretches and then I had bad stretches. So I was lucky enough to be in that league and play in that league and see what the pro life is about.

“For me being a first-round pick I did put pressure on myself and still do. I know for Nashville that is a bg investment for them to pick me in the first round and I don’t want to disappoint and I’m not going to disappoint. This year for me – and I’m sure for everyone else – was a disappointment. So I’m here now and it’s great for me to get this opportunity to travel with the team and see what that pro lifestyle is like in the NHL and it makes me want to get here even more.”

~ What are you learning watching Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback on a daily basis? From the outside watching them in practice, even now in the second round of the playoffs, it seems they compete to stop every puck.

Chet Pickard:

“Obviously they are both very good goalies and their practice habits are unbelievable. Those guys battle for every puck, they don’t stop. Fifth, sixth rebound they are still going even if they are diving across the crease and that’s something I try to put into my game. And then you see how they carry themselves off the ice, they are both awesome guys. Even though they are competing against each other, they are both laughing together and having a lot of fun and that’s great to see too. So I can take something from everybody here. And you get on the private plane. That’s pretty cool and just makes you want to be here even more.”

~ What have you had to change in your game these last two years working with Nashville goalie guru Mitch Korn?

Chet Pickard:

Nashville Predators Goalie prospect Chet Pickard

Chet Pickard worked on his post play in practice, but everything was geared toward moving faster. (InGoal Photo)

“Something that we’re working on is depth and positioning. You look at a guy like Corey Crawford and that’s kind of who I am looking at right now in terms of taking certain things from. It’s about positioning. He doesn’t get caught outside his parameters too much. In junior guys would bury their head to take a slap shot and I would come way out on top of the crease and it would hit me in the chest every time.”

~ Did you come out early and retreat, or start back, read that shot and then come out in junior? In other words, were you playing more of an outside-in, backwards flow game in junior?

Chet Pickard:

“No, I would see them put their head down and I would come out and keep coming out and I wouldn’t get set. My big thing now is I have to get set all the time before a shot. Guys can make plays, guys can snap the puck. I can’t be drifting. You can’t get away with drifting at this level. Not at all.

“And there are lots of things. Quickness was the biggest thing. Last year every single day I was working on quickness. I lost 15 pounds. I worked on everything off the ice, my body fat has gone down big time. When I as in junior I was 215 points, now I am 195.

“So there are a lot of changes. And just you gotta be sharp at all time. If the puck is crossing the red line, you have to be sharp, and that’s another thing I learned. All 60 minutes, you have to be sharp for all of that. You go into the intermission and you relax, or TV timeout, you relax. But for every second you are on the ice, you gotta be sharp because plays happen so fast compared to junior.”

~ You talk about getting quicker, and foot speed has clearly been an issue in the transition from junior to the pro game, so other than dropping the weight, how do you do it between the pipes?

Chet Pickard:

“On ice when I work with Mitch everything we do has to be quick. If it’s easy, we make it quicker, we make it more challenging. For me it’s about getting out of my comfort zone is what we call it, and then off the ice it’s everything from sprints to all my lifting has to be quick, low reps, powerful.

“The learning curve for me – I learn every single day and I learn so much every single day. And now that I am here I am loving this. I am probably the happiest guy here right now and I really appreciate the (Predators) organization doing this for me. It’s cool to get a taste and it makes me want to be here even more.”

Nashville Predators Goalie prospect Chet Pickard

Chet Pickard under the watchful eye of Mitch Korn (InGoal photo)

About The Author

Kevin Woodley

Kevin Woodley is a rec-league target and former contributing editor of the Goalie News magazine. He has written about the Vancouver Canucks and NHL for The Associated Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News for the last decade, and covered the 2010 Olympics for The AP.


  1. Scott Christensen

    Good article and I hope this call up helps with his confidence.

  2. Sara

    From a fan who followed Chet through his junior hockey career, thanks for this article. Just wanted to note that the date threw me off: May 9, 2007? 🙂

  3. Kevin Woodley

    Sara, we originally published this exclusively to our 10,000 free weekly goalie newsletter subscribers, which sometimes means burying the date to hide it on the main site 😉
    glad you enjoyed it.

  4. Matt in Montreal

    Looks like Chet’s on his way.

    And you can never underestimate the value of being a good teammate – having guys want to be around you.

  5. JR

    Hope to see another Winnipeg boy in the NHL one day. Go Chet!

  6. Al Lentini

    I`ve been working with goalkeepers for 17 years,one thing that I`ve repeated so often to them over the years is to keep working hard,and to believe in themselves and in what they are doing.The result speaks for itself. After all the hard work and effort, it all gels together at one point. Chet your not far off from your goal it`s a matter of sometime soon. A thoroughbred always ends up a winner when he matures.

    P.S. It`s not over till it`s over.

  7. Shiann

    Chet, this past season in Cincy you had one young lady named Sam you met her at the HP4K dinner. She purchased your t-shirt, your signed stick, and got your autograph. Sam was the one fan that always clapped and presented praise for your accomplishments and even would defend you to those around her. Now after reading this article Sam is very proud of your improvements and hopes that you acheive your goals she just wishes that you could of seen those who were in your corner trying to support you here in Cincy. Being here in Cincy should not of been seen as hitting rock bottom but more to the fact that you had your own issues to work on. Sam asked how can a man seem to have morals and values when around the organization but once he is away from the organization we can see he is an ungrateful errogant ass.

  8. Tomas Hertz,MD,BA

    Jim Craig once said ” It’s hard to get better when everyone is telling you how great you are!” This is waht came to mind when I read this good article and also the one about Bernier. These are very good goaltenders who have success and are confident. So they should be. However, everyone starts to the a little too cocky and forget what it took to get there. To stay there is even more difficult. From many of the Ask a Pro interviews with young goalies one sees that adjustments are constantly needed and what works at the junior level does not automatically work at the minor pro level and then at the highest level. I have friends who have played in the ECHL and AHL as goaltenders and negativity can become infectious very quickly. YOu have to stay positive and take ownership of your own circumstances. Good work Kevin!

  9. Natalie

    great article!
    As a goalie mom, I have years to go before this stage, but it seems like such a fine line between cocky and confident – but it seems to me the young ones that are making it (Schneider, Reimer) have a great solid base at home to keep them grounded. I have to give Chet kudos for regaining his head on this one, best of luck to you on your journey…Natalie

  10. D

    Shiann –

    “Errogant” asses = people that don’t talk to Sam, in Sam’s world.

    Tell her to get over herself.

  11. XcloneiacX

    I kind of agree that the E is not rock bottom. For him I think its where he needed to be anyway. Being a Cyclones fan as well I can tell you that he really didn’t show any improvement throughout the year. The D in front of him got better which helped. The thing is, him saying the E is his rock bottom should really be him saying its my 2nd chance.

    He came to an organization with an amazing track record, 2 Kelly Cups in the past 4 seasons is almost a too good to be true place for a player to come to. Having met him a couple times, he is a nice guy, although he seems to have a bad ego at times. I get that its rough and being a goalie myself I understand the frustrations but he needs to take into account his level of consistent play which he doesn’t have any of at the moment.

    His “rock bottom” in my eyes was the fact that the Cyclones brought in a CHL ‘tender (assigned from Rochester) who absolutely blew up the crease and played unreal.

    IDK what to think of this article, but thats my views on him seeing the Cyclones organization as his rock bottom.