New goalie Pickard in familiar surroundings with Flyers

Cal Pickard

DENVER – Cal Pickard might be new to the Flyers’ roster but he’s certainly no stranger to team management and players.

Pickard, the goaltender claimed off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, played on Canada’s 2017 World Championship team, which had Flyers general manager Ron Hextall as its GM and Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol as an assistant.

“We spent a few weeks together at the World Championships,’’ said Hakstol at the Saturday morning skate at the Pepsi Center where Pickard went through his first practice with the team. “This is obviously a different setting but (we know) the kind of man he is.

“He brings a real competitive, upbeat spirit. In terms of goaltending, he’s built a good career.’’

To make room for Pickard, the Flyers put Anthony Stolarz on waivers. He cleared and was assigned to the AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

As for Pickard, he should be ready for game action soon.

“We’re comfortable using him,’’ Hakstol said. “We have back-to-back games next week (the home opener against San Jose on Tuesday, then at Ottawa on Wednesday), so that’s a possibility.’’

Pickard’s arrival was held up by immigration issues but there was a big smile on his face as he addressed the media.

Coincidentally, Pickard played 86 games with the Avalanche between 2014 and 2017, so this was a bit of a homecoming for him as well.

“It’s definitely a place I feel comfortable, for sure,’’ he said.

Pickard’s role with the team moving forward is a bit uncertain due to the injury status of regular No. 2 goaltender Michal Neuvirth (groin).

Plus, Alex Lyon should be back from a lower-body injury pretty soon, further clouding the picture.

Pickard, a 26-year-old native of Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, said he doesn’t concern himself too much with that.

“I’m not trying to think about that,’’ he said. “It’s a good opportunity for me to come in here, play some games. I have to take advantage of this.

“I’m familiar with the Flyers from the World Championships, ‘Hak’ and Hextall, so it’s a good group of guys and they make me feel very welcome right now.’’

Pickard also played with some of the Flyers players in that tournament, including Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny and Wayne Simmonds.

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for Pickard.

“You don’t know if you’re going to get picked up (this was his second time going through the waiver process),’’ he said. “There are so many guys out there, it’s tough to get picked up.

“But I refreshed my Twitter feed at noon (on Monday) and saw my name (on waivers). It’s a bit of a shock. But there’s a lot of excitement now and I’m settling in. I’m really excited.’’

Pickard originally was selected by Vegas (from Colorado) in the expansion draft, then traded to Toronto. Maybe he can stick with the Flyers for a while.

While there’s a chance Pickard could play next week, there’s also a very good chance he could wind up somewhere else when Neuvirth returns.

“I’ve seen crazy things happen,’’ he said. “Every year there’s a lot of injuries, a lot of things going on. Just have to think about yourself, I came in with that mindset.’’

Hextall knows what he’s getting with Pickard.

“He’s a proven NHL goalie,’’ Hextall said. “He’s a hard worker. We expect him to come here and play good hockey for us. He’s certainly capable.

“He battles. He’s kind of unflappable. He’s a resilient guy.’’

The GM gives the impression Neuvirth needs “days’’ before he’s ready to play.

Even though Pickard played for some bad Colorado teams, he has a career goals-against average of 2.78 and a save percentage of .913.

Folin making debut

Christian Folin, signed as a free agent during the offseason, was ticketed to make his debut as a Flyer in Saturday night’s game against the Avalanche.

According to Hakstol, Folin was scheduled to play in one of the first two games – either Vegas or Colorado – and the defenseman was scratched for the first game.

Radko Gudas was scheduled to sit this one out, although Hakstol gave the impression it was no reflection of his play.

“We have a group of seven guys and every guy is in the mix,’’ Hakstol said. “He (Folin) is part of the mix. He had a real good camp and he’s going in tonight. He certainly has earned that.’’

Rocky Mountain high

Several Flyers said the mile-high altitude has not really affected them, although they did feel it at the team retreat in Vail earlier in the week. At Tuesday’s practice at Vail, some of the players felt winded. “I don’t know if it (Vail) helped the acclimation at all,’’ Hakstol said. “But that day was tough, 8,500 feet. The breaths get pretty heavy. Our guys will be ready tonight.’’

Wayne Fish
About Wayne Fish 417 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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