As a member of the Miramichi Timberwolves in 2016-17, Pickard became familiar with the club during a hard-fought Maritime Junior Hockey League final series.
“Definitely the toughest team to play against,” Pickard said of the Bearcats, who won last year’s MHL title with a Game 7 victory over the Timberwolves. “They all worked hard and were smart and physical, and you could tell playing against them, they’re well coached, too.”
In August, the Bearcats acquired Pickard from the Timberwolves in exchange for defenceman Jarrod Shipley, the rights to Anthony Wojcik, a second-round pick in the 2018 draft and future considerations.
“I’m pretty excited to be here,” said Pickard, 20, a Halifax native. “I just wanted to get closer to home and be able to go to school, that was the biggest thing.”
Pickard, who will attend Dal-AC, brings experience to the Bearcats. He played two seasons in the Quebec major junior league with Baie-Comeau, Acadie-Bathurst and Moncton before joining the Timberwolves last season.
He played a fourth-line checking role in major junior, but was a top-six forward in Tier 2. He led the Timberwolves in scoring last season with 19 goals and 41 assists for 60 points in 45 games. He then led all playoff scorers with 10 goals and 13 assists in 15 post-season games.
“I’m more comfortable now in an offensive role,” said Pickard, a six-foot-three, 200-pound centre. “I still play hard, but I’d rather have the puck on my stick and have a chance to make something happen rather than having a couple of shifts a game and having a fight.”
Bearcats coach Shawn Evans was impressed with Pickard during last year’s playoff series and is thrilled to have him on his side this season. He said the veteran forward excels on face-offs and is a responsible player in all areas of the ice.
“He’s a 200-foot hockey player and we just feel he can match up against other teams’ top players,” Evans said. “He’s the type of guy, if he’s not putting anything on the scoreboard on a certain night, he still does other things well that helps him contribute in a different way.”
It’s those attributes, said Evans, along with the way he conducts himself off the ice, that made Pickard the Bearcats’ choice for captain this season.
“It’s an honour,” said Pickard. “It’s a big role to fill but I think I can handle it. There’s a lot of veteran guys here that will definitely make it easier on me.”
The Bearcats play their third game of the pre-season on Thursday when they visit the Pictou County Crushers. On Friday, the teams meet at the RECC for a 7 p.m. puck drop.