Now the second-year winger has his sights set on reaching a goal, making the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“You need to give 100 percent all of the time,” Picard said. “Everyone wants a spot on the team and this year it is going to be very tough. Everyone is going to go hard for it.”
Picard, the Jackets’ first pick, eighth overall, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, made his professional debut last season after four seasons split between Sherbrooke and Lewiston of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
After scoring 14-18-32 in his first 72 games in the QMJHL, Picard exploded after moving on to Lewiston in 2003, scoring 39 and 40 goals respectively, with back-to-back 80+ point campaigns.
His professional career began last year in Syracuse, with the Jackets AHL affiliate, where Picard’s hard work earned an early season promotion to Columbus, making his debut on Nov. 18, vs. Dallas.
After an injury, Picard returned to the AHL before being promoted back to the big club in March where he finished the season appearing in 17 games without recording a point, despite having many scoring opportunities.
“I had some great shots last year and I didn’t get the goal and everybody is very happy for me right now,” Picard said after his goal. “Hopefully things will continue to go this way this preseason.”
Forward Dan Fritsche, who played with Picard both in Syracuse and in Columbus last season, sees big things ahead for Picard.
“He is a hard working kid,” said Fritsche. “He was kind of stung last year when he came up with us the second half of the season and things didn’t go his way.
“Hopefully that is the start for many more for him because he definitely deserves it.”
Despite being scoreless at the NHL level, Picard did find his scoring touch down in Syracuse, scoring 15-15-30 in 45 games with the Crunch, also tallying a goal in six postseason games.
But that was last year. This year Picard is battling for one of the few open spots on a roster that is the deepest in Columbus history. Picard got the nod from head coach Gerard Gallant in the first game of the preseason and was placed on the AAA line with a fellow Alexander in the Russian center Alexander Svitov and Adam Pineault, who was selected in that same 2004 draft some 38 picks later.
On a counterattack 15:54 into the first period, Picard worked a give-and-go with Svitov at the left circle, advancing past a Predators defenseman before sliding a low shot past goalie Chris Mason. And that was it, a goal in the NHL.
“It means a lot to me,” Picard said. “All last year I didn’t get a goal and I was a little bit disappointed. So to score a goal in the first pre-season game is big to me.
“You work every game and every practice for it. It is your dream. I didn’t score last year but now I feel like I can do it.”
Picard had so much fun scoring that first NHL goal, he did it again in his very next start.