Calvin Pickard didn’t get to spend much time in San Antonio, but he made it memorable.
He won the AHL Goaltender of the Month award for October as the Rampage didn’t have a regulation loss in their first nine games with Picks in net.
His strong month turned into a strong season, as the Colorado Avalanche called up Pickard for good on Dec. 26, and he led the team in save percentage for 2015-16.
In May, Pickard was selected to represent Team Canada in the 2016 IIHF World Championship. He joined young stars including Connor McDavid and Matt Duchene to help Canada win the gold medal.
“It was a pretty exciting year for me, that’s for sure,” Pickard said. “To get the call to be on Team Canada was special. It’s a privilege that comes with a lot of pride.”
Pickard played in two games for Team Canada, allowing just one goal in 35 shots and record a shutout in the round-robin portion of the tournament. He backed up Edmonton’s Cam Talbot as Canada defeated Mikko Rantanen and Finland in the gold medal game.
“We had such a great group of players talent-wise, but the best part of it was everybody was a great person,” Pickard said. “We became a tight-knit group very quickly.”
Pickard had a 7-6-1-1 record in 20 games with Colorado, recording a .922 save percentage and 2.56 goals against average.
He said he had a confidence boost from his first month in the AHL, where he posted a 1.79 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage while the Rampage went 5-0-1.
“We got off to such a great start in San Antonio, and I have to give some credit to that for the rest of my season,” Pickard said. “It was one of the more fun months of hockey of my life. We were playing well, we felt like we couldn’t lose, confidence was going up and we were in Texas and California at the time. We had a blast.”
Now that he’s spent much of two seasons with Colorado, Pickard said he knows he belongs in the NHL. While the AHL may be in his rear-view mirror, he’s grateful for the time he spent in the league.
Pickard spent three seasons with the Lake Erie Monsters before the Avalanche switch affiliations to San Antonio.
Pickard hopes to be one of the many AHL goalie success stories that have become some of the NHL’s biggest stories in years. Pittsburgh rookie goaltender Matt Murray spent the past two seasons in the AHL with Wilkes Barre-Scrantonand is now one win away from a Stanley Cup.
Last season, it was Ottawa’s Andrew Hammond, who was called up from Binghamton and finished the season in Ottawa with a 20-1-2 record to help the Senators reach the playoffs.
“Those guys got their opportunities and ran with them,” Pickard said. “They used what they gained in the AHL, and I’m hoping to do the same. I’ve had three seasons of ups and downs, and I’ve kept working to improve. I’ll never forget my time in the AHL. It made me into the player and the person that I am.”