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Canucks vs. Oilers: Calvin Pickard, plus his Vancouver connection

Longtime Vancouver Giants goalie coach Paul Fricker started working with Pickard when he was in junior with the Seattle Thunderbirds

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Oilers goalie Calvin Pickard has a Lower Mainland tie.

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The 32-year-old who is slated to start in net for the Edmonton Oilers in Game 4 of their second-round playoff series with the visiting Vancouver Canucks tonight has worked with Delta-based goalie coach Paul Fricker since he was age 14.

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They first connected when Fricker was on the coaching staff of the Seattle Thunderbirds. Pickard went on to become the WHL club’s starting goalie for four seasons.

Goaltender Calvin Pickard #30 of the Edmonton Oilers sprays water on his head during the second period of the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Mullett Arena on April 17, 2024 in Tempe, Arizona. Photo by Christian Petersen /Getty Images

Fricker moved to the Vancouver Giants after Seattle and has been with that club for over a decade now. This season, Vancouver starting goalie Brett Mirwald was named the WHL’s top netminder. Their three previous starters under Fricker — David Tendeck, Trent Miner and Jesper Vikman — all played minor pro this past season.

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The Canucks have a 2-1 series’ lead over the Oilers. Stuart Skinner started the first three games and gave up 12 goals on 58 shots (.793 save percentage). Pickard came on in the third period in Sunday’s 4-3 Game 3 Vancouver win and stopped all three shots he faced. His last start was April 17 on the road against the Arizona Coyotes.

Pickard was on InGoal Magazine’s podcast this week and was highly complimentary of Fricker, talking about how he “owed everything” to Fricker because he let Pickard develop his own style in junior and wasn’t tied to textbook technique early on. Pickard worries about young netminders becoming a “store-bought goalie … you’re a bit robotic.”

“He could have looked at me and been, ‘Oh my goodness. You’ve got to change this and this and this.’ It would have been warranted at the time but he knew I was a natural and I would evolve to that certain (technical) standard at some point,” Pickard told InGoal. “I went through junior and just kind of did my thing. I battled and competed. And then I got to pro and those guys got their hands on me and I needed it at that time.

“Paul has been huge. I still work with Paul. I’m going for dinner with Paul tonight. He’s my guy.”

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Pickard’s a survivor. There was a time that he wasn’t considered the best goalie in his own family. Older brother Chet Pickard, 34, was a first-round pick, No. 18 overall, of the Nashville Predators in 2008 after winning his first of two straight WHL top goalie awards with the Tri-City Americans.


Chet never played an NHL game. Among his closest calls was during the 2011 playoffs, when he was promoted from the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals to be a third-stringer during Nashville’s playoff series against the Canucks. His last listed pro games came in 2021-22, when he wrapped up a seven-year run in the German league with Grizzlys Wolfsburg.

Calvin was a 2010 second-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche and has played regular games with the Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers, the Coyotes and this year with the Oilers.

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He’s seen action in 139 NHL regular-season games in total. He’s played 321 in the AHL, including four off the top of this season with the Bakersfield Condors before Edmonton decided to flip places with Pickard and Jack Campbell, who was supposed to be Edmonton’s long-term answer in goal when they signed him to a five-year deal with a US$5 million cap hit per season in July 2022.

Pickard signed a two-year deal with a cap hit of US$762,500 with the Oilers on the same day to be their third goalie. Pickard’s not signed a deal for more than two years since his three-year, entry level contact expired at the close of the 2014-15 season.

Calgary Flames Brett Sutter scores on Edmonton Oilers goalie Calvin Pickard in second period NHL preseason action at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Wednesday, September 28, 2022. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia Photo by Darren Makowichuk /DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia

InGoal Magazine’s Kevin Woodley says that in this era of video programs and analytics, the Canucks will have clips of every one of the 53 goals that Pickard allowed at the NHL level this season at their fingertips. They’ll have trends tracked. Where did the shot come from? Where did it beat him? Was he stationary or was he moving?

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They’ll have every time he’s gone out of his net to play the puck. When does he leave it for his defenceman? When does he pass it up?

“There will be no stone left unturned,” Woodley said. “It’s the playoffs. That’s the way it works. I think that’s why you see some goalies get exposed. This isn’t some random Tuesday in November. This is possibly seven games in a row against the same team and the same goalie. Teams will know tendencies and try to attack weakness as much as the other team will allow them to do so.”

Pickard was 12-7-1, with a 2.45 goals against average and a .909 save percentage for the Oilers this season. It’s the most he’s played in the NHL since getting 50 games with the Avalanche in 2016-17. That was Colorado’s first season under coach Jared Bednar and they struggled mightily, winding up last in the league at 22-56-4. Pickard was 15-31-2, with a 2.98 GAA and a .904 save percentage.

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Skinner was 36-16-5, with a 2.62 GAA and a .905 save percentage, during the regular season with Edmonton.

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