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Calvin Pickard provides Golden Knights with goaltending depth

Updated September 18, 2017 - 5:13 pm

Calvin Pickard was the first player announced by Golden Knights owner Bill Foley during the NHL expansion draft.

The goaltender will be No. 2 when the regular season starts.

“I understand my role,” Pickard said.

Pickard, who was selected from Colorado in the June draft, is firmly entrenched as the backup goalie for the Knights behind veteran Marc-Andre Fleury.

Even typically tight-lipped general manager George McPhee acknowledged as much last week when he said the team’s roster is a blank canvas “other than the goaltenders.”

But the personable Pickard provides the Knights with experienced cover should anything happen to the three-time Stanley Cup winner.

“Every NHL team needs two good goalies,” said Pickard, who will not face his former team when the Knights (1-0) meet the Avalanche at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Denver but is expected to start Thursday in San Jose.

“There’s a lot of back-to-back situations, a lot of of times where I’m going to need to play, and when I get in there. I’ve got to take advantage of my opportunities. I’m just trying to get more and more comfortable every day here, get used to my teammates and … make sure I’m sharp come the regular season.”

Pickard was Colorado’s second-round pick in 2010 and made 36 appearances for the Avalanche over two seasons from 2014 to 2016, going 13-13-4 with a 2.47 goals-against average.

He took over as the starter last season when Semyon Varlamov underwent season-ending hip surgery in late January and was 15-31-2 with a 2.98 GAA and .904 save percentage in 50 games, as Colorado finished with the worst record in the league.

“It was a good learning curve for me, being a starter in the NHL and having a short-term memory,” Pickard said. “There was good nights, there was bad nights, regardless of what I did in the nets. You just kind of had to push it away and move on to the next night. There were a lot of lessons there that I can definitely use the rest of my career.”

Pickard, 25, led Team Canada to the silver medal at the 2017 IIHF World Championships in May, but the Avalanche chose to protect the oft-injured Varlamov in the expansion draft instead.

Since the Knights’ picks were revealed in reverse order of the standings, Pickard heard his name called first.

“It was pretty funny how that worked out,” Pickard said. “It was exciting. I was watching it with family, and a bit of a whirlwind there. I’ve never switched teams, but so much excitement ever since.”

Pickard, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, will see action when the Knights play games on back-to-back nights and when coach Gerard Gallant decides to rest the 33-year-old Fleury.

Fleury served as a mentor to young netminder Matt Murray in Pittsburgh and expects a healthy competition with Pickard as well.

“Calvin is such an easygoing guy, smiling, happy, and he works hard in practice,” Fleury said. “I think I always had a good relationship with my goalie partners. For sure I’ll try to help him out, and I’m sure I’ll learn from him, too. In this game you always keep learning, and it will be fun to partner up and make a good tandem team together.”

More Golden Knights: Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage online at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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