I have a riddle for you: What goalie lead Canada to a world Junior gold medal, won the WHL goalie of the year award with the Tri-City Americans and was one of only 11 goalies to be picked in the first round between 2005 and 2012 ? If you guessed Carey Price you are correct! However if you guessed Chet Pickard you are wrong on a technicality: he has won the WHL goalie of the year award twice.
So why is it that yesterday the Predators are sending Chet Pickard to play in Europe while Price is playing on a six year, 39 million dollar contract? Did the Preds royally screw up in developing their first round goalie, or has Chet's talent fizzled out? Let's take a look.
Pickard, drafted in 2008 at the age of 18, has been bounced around the Preds system like a glow in the dark bouncy ball at a rave. In his draft year he was returned to his WHL team (The Tri City Americans) where he had his career best GAA and SV% (2.28, 9.21, quite good for a CHL goalie). The future was bright.
The following year, being too old to return to the WHL, he backed up Jeremy Smith with the Milwaukee Admirals. He played in 36 games recodring 14 wins and a 2.89 GAA.
You might not have known, but Chet Pickard and Anders Lindback were both selected in the 2008 draft - 189 picks apart. Over that summer the Predators organization decided to send Lindback (well return Lindback really) to the Brynas IF team in the Swedish Elite League. He was 20 at the time. When Lindback returned he was in better condition than ever and he landed a spot Nashville in 2010, effectively pole vaulting over the AHL positon. This kept Jeremy Smith and Mark Dekanich (now with the jets) in Milwaukee. So Chet, left out, was sent to Cincinatti.
This year, when Chet looked quite keen, despite his ECHL stats, to take a back up position (or even maybe a starting position at one moment of uncertainty) with the Admirals, the Predators added the 21 year old, 2011 draft pick Magnus Hellberg to their roster.
This is getting wordy so let me be a bit briefer: what's wrong with Chet Pickard - the young first round pick in 2008? Why isn't he more like Carey Price, who once draftet slotted himself into the Montral Lineup as a backup the within two years and quickly took the starting position after a brief dual with Jaroslav Halak (in two years time)? Two words, Depth Drafting. The Predators are a team that has successfully time and time and again found value in their late draft picks. Examples that have hurt Chet are Anders Lindback and, of course, the monster himself, Pekka Rinne, who was selected a laughable 258th overall. Squared with the cotinous solid play of Jeremy Smith for the Admirals, it has been difficult to slate Chet in a reasonable position for his development (which at his age, is most important to the predators). We can't all have the good fortune of being drafter to a team that has Jose Theodore and Marc Gagnon as a goaltending tandem.
He is only 22 (23 in November), Chet isn't a lost cause, he is a work in progress and Europe may be his best bet right now. Let it play out, he may end up in a Predators uniform before it's all said and done.