There was a point in time, not too long ago where the Thunderbirds were not enjoying success. From 2009-2013 Seattle struggled to win games and had not much going in the way of star power. But during that period, there was one player that drew fans to the arena, even when rival Portland would routinely hang 7-to-12 goals on the T-birds. Coming in at #14 on my list, is a player that does not get nearly enough credit in the franchise’s history, goaltender, Calvin Pickard.
Calvin, or as fans of the team called him “Pics” was selected in the second round of the 2007 Bantam Draft, at 38th overall. Pickard, born in Moncton, New Brunswick was a lanky kid who projected to be a workhorse netminder when he was drafted. His rookie season was by all accounts a success. He appeared in 47 games and posted a 3.05 goals against average (GAA) and a .896 save percentage (SV%). Calvin finished the season with an impressive 23-16-1-4 record. Pickard also played in that summer’s Ivan Hilinka memorial U18 tournament where he earned a gold medal representing team Canada.
Pickard followed up his rookie debut with 62 starts, where he would drastically improve his SV%, going from .896 to .914, which caught the attention of NHL central scouting. Unfortunately, due to the lack of talent around him, he experienced a dip in his goals against average (3.09) and his record was the worst of his major junior career at 16-34-7-5. He did earn some spotlight that season, however, when he helped Team Cherry to victory at the annual CHL Top Prospects game. He was also named to the WHL first team all-stars of the Western Conference. Going into that summer’s NHL entry draft, Pickard was ranked as the top North American goaltender, but was the third off the board when he was selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round, 49th overall.
Pickard returned to Seattle for the 2010-2011 season. He played in 68 games, posting a career best record, 27-33-3-5 and career best SV% at .916. He was also named as a second team all-star in the Western Conference. Seattle missed the playoffs in 2011 for the second consecutive year and things weren’t looking up headed into Pickard’s final season with Seattle.
In Calvin’s final year in the WHL, he appeared in 64 more games for the Thunderbirds where he posted a career low in terms of GAA (3.59) and his second highest SV% (.906) since his rookie season. In his final season, Seattle finished just two points out of a playoff spot. Bring in the playoff race, likely prevented the organization from moving him at the deadline. It would have been nice to see him go to a true contender and get a taste of playoff hockey in the WHL. At least, more than the five games he saw in his rookie season. Secondarily, it also would have likely added some high picks and prospects to Seattle’s rebuild.
That final season though, he did set the all-time record for saves in the WHL over his career with 7,727.
Since his days in Seattle, Calvin has enjoyed moderate success at the next levels. He spent parts of eight seasons in the Avalanche’s organization either with the big club or their affiliate at the time, Lake Erie/San Antonio. He was the first player selected in the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft in 2017, but has bounced around multiple organizations since. That has included winning a Calder Cup with the AHL Toronto Marlies in 2018.
“Pics’” spent his time in Seattle during a forgettable era of Thunderbirds hockey. He was still a stalwart in the crease though and a player that is often overlooked when talking about all-time greats for the organization. For that reason, he has made my list.