Calvin Pickard believes that if he follows all the rules, he'll have success.
The rules in mind are a special set given to him by one of his coaches, and they're not the toughest things in the world to stay on top of, but the Seattle Thunderbirds goaltender and top 2010 Entry Draft prospect has devoted himself to following the guidelines. And while his stat line might not jump off the page, it's Pickard's dedication that has made scouts flock to watch him.
"They're just common-sense things," Thunderbirds goaltending coach Paul Fricker told NHL.com. "All it is is basic common-sense predictabilities. If you're able to execute them on an ongoing basis it's going to give you a chance to have more success than if you don't."
Pickard is only 14-30-12, but the Thunderbirds have just 17 wins on the season and have the third-fewest points in the Western Hockey League's Western Conference. Despite that, Pickard is fifth in the league with a .913 save percentage, and he has a respectable 3.06 goals-against average.
While his numbers might not stand out, the scouts who watch him most -- NHL Central Scouting -- ranked him No. 1 among North American goaltenders in their midterm ranking of North American goaltenders.
Earlier this season Pickard stopped 57 shots in a 1-0 shutout of Tri-City, and on Dec. 11 he made 54 saves in a 5-1 defeat of Tri-City. He's faced 35 or more shots 19 times in 56 games.
He's able to maintain his focus despite seeing more rubber than the Trans-Canada Highway thanks his reliance on Fricker's rules.
"On game days he doesn't talk about the game," said Pickard. "When he's talking about a game, he said you want to get a good ball toss. We play ball toss before every game. He doesn't want you to worry about the game. He wants to talk about how good the ball toss is. Then it's focus on the stretch, get a good stretch in. Then it's just focus on stopping every puck in warm-ups. Then it's have a good start to the game. He's got a list of rules he wants me to follow. If you do all his rules, you're going to have a really good chance of winning. I try to focus on doing those rules and following them."
Playing by the rules is earning Pickard rave reviews.
"He's a solid goalie," NHL Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "He's not really a huge goalie (6-foot, 200 pounds), but he plays big. His positional play is excellent; he reads the play very good. His net coverage is exceptional. He's smart, he's strong, got those good goalie instincts. He's a very confident goalie, plays calm and relaxed. His positional play is excellent. He always seems to give himself a chance to stop the puck. Always seems to know where to be. Very smart."
Added Seattle coach Rob Sumner, "He's the backbone of our team." And it's a role he never really doubted Pickard could play, going back to the first time he saw Pickard two seasons ago, as a 15-year-old.
"When he came to his first training camp at 15, he didn't let in a goal," said Sumner. "We had scrimmages with stats in the evening and he didn't let in a goal in training camp and that makes an impression. And he played very well and very hard. An impression was made at a very early stage."
Last season he was brought in to backup Jacob DeSerres, but ended up outplaying him and made more appearances, 47 to 32. Pickard also started all five playoff games.
"We felt comfortable he'd be able to step in at 16 and be successful," said Sumner. "Whether I can sit here and say 47 games and really be the backbone of our team in important stretches last year, I don't know if I could say that. But he did do that and show that."
Pickard won 23 games, had a 3.05 GAA and three shutouts. He was a tick better in the playoffs, posting a 3.03 GAA against the Spokane Chiefs, the defending Memorial Cup champions. Even though he won just one game, Pickard said he's better for the experience.
"Every game matters in the playoffs," he said. "You have to be on task, and if you're not they can get a goal or two on you and that can be the series. There's no room for error in the postseason, that's for sure."
Besides learning those hard lessons, he's also learned a lot from his older brother, Chet. Taken with the 18th pick of the 2008 Entry Draft by the Nashville Predators, Chet Pickard left a large pair of skates for his younger brother to fill. In his draft year, Chet was named WHL and Canadian Hockey League Goaltender of the Year.
But Calvin said he has no interest in using his brother as a benchmark.
"His net coverage is exceptional. He's smart, he's strong, got those good goalie instincts. He's a very confident goalie, plays calm and relaxed. His positional play is excellent. He always seems to give himself a chance to stop the puck. Always seems to know where to be." -- Al Jensen
"In his draft year he had an unbelievable year," said Calvin. "… He had exceptional stats. I've seen them. It's tough to have a year like that. I'm going to try and be the best goalie I can be."
Calvin said he and Chet, now in his first season in the American Hockey League with the Milwaukee Admirals, talk often.
"We talk bout everything -- different players, different things to look out for," said Calvin. "We've talked about it all, all the experiences he's had, he's passed it on to me. … I have an advantage over a lot of other goalies having him as a brother."
They also talk about the upcoming draft, where it's likely Calvin will be one of the first netminders taken. But even with all the scouts flocking to see him play, Sumner hasn't seen any change in his goalie.
"He's smart enough to know people (scouts) are there every night," said Sumner. "He's had his brother as a role model to watch first-hand go through that thing. I think he knows how to handle that. I don't think he gets rattled by that at all."
Anyway, paying attention to scouts isn't part of the rules.Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org