The "winner" of the Mile High Hockey census, or in other words, the Avs player who exceeded fans' expectations most this past season, is goaltender Calvin Pickard.
After bursting onto the scene in the fall of 2014 with some stellar play while Semyon Varlamov and Reto Berra were both injured, Pickard went from being a ho-hum AHL goaltender to one of the biggest goaltending surprises of the NHL. Pickard was more than just serviceable, which is all most Avs fans could have originally asked for, he was shutting teams down and putting the team on his shoulders, winning games almost by himself or keeping the Avs in games they had no business being in. He was very much the doppelgänger of Semyon Varlamov.
So to begin this season, one of the most intriguing Avalanche training camp battles was who would win the #2 goaltender spot; Pickard or Reto Berra? Most fans wanted Pickard, because of a mix of popularity and to that point, more consistent goaltending. But Berra edged out Pickard and got to hang out on the bench with the Avalanche while Picks made his way south to San Antonio to protect the net of the Rampage. Scenarios eventually dictated Pickard being called up to the major leagues after Reto Berra was injured for the rest of the season in December, while Varlamov was dealing with some boo-boos of his own.
Very much like the previous season, Pickard was more than just serviceable. His play made him even more of a fan-favorite than he already was as he allowed few goals, and was helping the Avs recover from their slow start and putting them back into the playoff mix. Have a gander at his game log once he became a mainstay in Denver this season.
Pretty solid stuff for a guy who started the season as the team's supposedly third-best goalie, and our census reflects that.
Pickard didn't get a single D or F from everyone, which definitely needed to happen or else I'd have been very depressed in the views of some people. I'm disappointed some people even gave him a C, because you have to look at his numbers, again, as the #3 tender to start the season, and admit he played at an above average level, which qualifies as at least a B. Once again, training camp is going to be interesting in a few months. Varlamov will get the #1 spot. We know that. But does Pickard supplant Berra as the Avs' backup? And no matter what, will either Pickard or Berra be traded at some point to a goalie-needy squad, so that the Avalanche can get better on offense or defense? All those questions, and more, will be answered this fall.