It wasn’t the September that Owen Pickering was looking forward to. The lanky 6’4” defenseman had a charmed summer, being drafted in the first round by the Penguins and then coming to Pittsburgh for the first time to get a sense of his new organization and other young players in July’s prospect camp. The real pay off for this year should have been participating in his first NHL training camp. Pickering was not anywhere close to making the team or playing a meaningful game, but he still could have been involved in weeks worth of practices and a dry run pseudo-NHL debut in the form of a pre-season game.
Instead, Pickering was injured in the WHL’s first pre-season game, before he came back to Pittsburgh in the fall. This left him mostly off the ice as a spectator in his first NHL camp, though he was able to recover enough to get in a couple skates with pro level players.
That injury was more of a bummer than one that will have any long lasting effects, which is still unfortunate to not have gotten more of a look of Pickering on the ice for more action.
Now back with his junior team in the WHL, Pickering is off to a hot start and growing into his frame more and more. With 0G+5A in his first four games, Pickering’s offensive profile is predictably raising as he becomes one of the older and better players in his league (he had 9G+24A in 62 games last season).
But it wasn’t offense that made Pickering a first round selection, it was his ability to get around the ice at 6’4 and the way he could transition defense into offense moving up the ice. That is on display in this video that shows a lot of the skills and talents that don’t end up as goals or assists but can help a team out big time.
Pickering’s skating ability is good, one of the perks of hitting a late growth spurt is that he has the athleticism of a smaller player that now suddenly finds himself in a bigger body. He’ll need to continue to work to get comfortable in his new skin, but he clearly has a lot of talent and upside to grow into.
His passing ability either to start a rush or spring a breakaway with a lead pass is a great trait to have and one that should be his calling card moving forward as rises up the ranks. Getting to see an in-depth video like the one above to highlight the subtleties of what a modern day defensive defenseman can do so successfully that doesn’t always translate to goals and assists like other prospects is also welcome education and input to take into account .
All this growth will make Pickering a player to watch when he gets back to Pittsburgh next summer for development camp. And hopefully next September he’ll be ready and able to take more steps at NHL training camp then he was able to this year as his progression continues.