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Goalie Calvin Pickard tutored by live-in mentor

by Michael Blinn
Most prospects have someone helping them in the days leading up to the Entry Draft. There are family advisers, agents, friends -- sometimes even a father or uncle who's been through it before.

But 18-year-old goaltender Calvin Pickard has a bit of an edge over the other 2010 draftees -- one that grew up just down the hall in a neighboring bedroom.

Two year's ago, Calvin's older brother Chet was selected 18th by the Nashville Predators -- the first goaltender selected in the 2008 Draft. Chet went through the whole process of being scouted and ranked, being drilled at the Scouting Combine, and then finally being selected -- and he's been happy to share all of his experience with his younger brother.

"It's good having him around," Calvin said. "He's telling me what to look for. It's pretty special, but you've just got to keep being yourself. Advice only goes a certain amount of the way."

While the family pedigree certainly doesn't hurt, neither does Calvin's performance for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League in 2009-10. Calvin led the WHL in minutes played (3,688) and total saves (2,207), while placing sixth with a .914 save percentage while finishing with a more-than-respectable 3.09 goals-against average in 62 games. Despite a 16-34-12 record, the rest of his numbers were enough to earn him attention as a WHL Goaltender of the Year finalist.

"During the year I just tried to be the best goalie I could be," he said. "I tried not to look forward to the draft too much. I always knew in the back of my head that the scouts were there. There were scouts there last year, and they're always watching."

The scouts were indeed watching -- and they rewarded Pickard with the top ranking among North American goaltending prospects in both the midterm and final rankings. They also took note of his performance at the Scouting Combine, in which he placed in the top 10 out of all 100 invite-only prospects in both curl-ups and push ups. Of course, he also knew what to expect heading into that one as well.

"[Chet] told me the bike test and VO2 max tests were pretty hard, but you just have to go outside your comfort zone," Calvin said.

While the two have spent the last few seasons hundreds of miles apart -- Chet played his junior with the WHL's Tri-City Americans before graduating to Milwaukee of the AHL this season-- they're sure to check in with one another a few times a week, discussing mostly hockey, but plenty of personal happenings, as well. Of course, it helps that they're both like-minded..

"We're the same person; we have the same sense of humor, we're positive, and mentally tough," Calvin laughs. On the ice, however, it's another story for the 6-foot, 200-pound goalie. "He's a few inches taller than me (at 6-foot-3), so he can play bigger, more technically. Since I'm shorter, I have to be more athletic and bounce around the net a little more."

Despite their similar personalities and different styles, the two never had to share pads growing up, let alone ice time. In fact, until the 2008-09 WHL season, they had never faced off against one another. Three times during that season, Calvin checked into the Seattle net, while Chet was in goal at the Tri-City end; Chet, then 19, got the “W” all three times, though 16-year-old Calvin did push his older brother into overtime during their second clash, a 6-5 Americans' win.

The two are back living under the same roof again, whether it be in the Pickard home in Winnipeg, or the summer house in Phoenix. Wherever they live, Chet still gives advice.

"I couldn't be there [when Chet was drafted]," says Calvin, who was trying out for Canada's Under-17 World team -- which he led to the gold medal. "It was his time, and I knew my time was in a couple of years. It was cool back then, and it's my turn now. The biggest thing he's told me is just to be patient on Draft day."

Follow Michael Blinn on Twitter: @NHLBlinn

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