The Pipeline: A conversation with Owen Pickering
Owen Pickering used the shortened season last year to heal some injuries from a growth spurt.
And an introduction to the Western Hockey League with 23 games played in 2020-2021 helped ease the transition into a full season this year.
“It was huge for me,” Pickering told Guy Flaming of The Pipeline Show. “I know some guys may disagree. Their experience was negative, but for me, honestly I think it was the best possible situation. The ability to come to the bubble and get thrown in for 21, 22 minutes a night. I got scratched the first game, but after that we had a couple of injuries and I was thrown into just a good spot in the lineup and after that I think I earned it.
“I got some confidence. But that ability to kind of, like you said, dip my toes in the water and come out of the bubble with a taste of what the Western is like and honestly confidence that I can be good in the league was really positive for me.”
The 6-foot-4, 177 pound defenseman put up 33 points (nine goals, 24 assists) in 62 games for the Swift Current Broncos.
Pickering, No. 32 in FCHockey’s Spring ranking for the 2022 NHL Draft, would like to get stronger and build more strength during the off-season, so that he can make a bigger impact in the WHL next year.
“That’s the biggest focus, strength and explosiveness. More power,” he said. “I think that will just translate and help me a ton in my game.”
Guy Flaming: Tell me where you grew up, Owen.
Owen Pickering: I grew up in St. Adolphe, Manitoba…10 minutes south of Winnipeg. Fifteen hundred people. Hockey driven. Half of the people speak French and a very close-knit community.
Guy Flaming: Do you remember how old you were when you first started playing hockey?
Owen Pickering: I would have been four or five. Five I think when I started Timbits. Kind of learned to skate when I was three or four.
Guy Flaming: Always been a defenseman or did you start out as a forward and move back or heck even throw the pads on?
Owen Pickering: Always been a defenseman. I spent one game, I played goalie, because our goalie didn’t show up. And I got lit up. I think I gave up 13 or 14 and we lost to a team we definitely shouldn’t have lost to. So that was the start and the end of my goalie career.
Guy Flaming: Well the sheet I’m looking at says 6-foot-5 and 178 pounds. You talked about a growth spurt at the start of last season, where are you at right now?
Owen Pickering: Yup, 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5 and 177, 178 pounds.
Guy Flaming: So you have lots of room still on your frame to fill out. Is that something that’s a focus for you in the offseason?
Owen Pickering: Yes, 100 percent. That’s the biggest focus, strength and explosiveness. More power. I think that will just translate and help me a ton in my game.
Guy Flaming: Was that a big challenge for you to get used to, having that after that growth spurt. Did you feel awkward at all at that stage, especially on the ice?
Owen Pickering: No, actually I feel like it helped me. I don’t feel like I had the conventional reaction to a growth spurt. Played a lot of sports growing up so I feel like I’ve always had pretty good coordination. I think also when I grew I got a little explosiveness, just from puberty and development. Lengthened my stride and I think I just got stronger from there and my skating got better and better. I wasn’t a great skater when I was younger and I feel I’m a better skater now.
Guy Flaming: Let’s turn our attention to the draft. Are you a guy who tries not to think about the draft during the course of the season?
Owen Pickering: I’d say my teammates pay more attention to it. Screenshots sent to group chats. They try to keep my head small and ask if my name is a typo. I’d be lying to you if I told you I didn’t pay attention to it at all. It’s pretty cool, especially at the start of the year when you don’t really see your name anywhere. The real opinion that matters is July 7th. It’s pretty cool to get some motivation to get some feedback, but I don’t get preoccupied with it.
Guy Flaming: For those who haven’t had a chance to watch you play, how would you describe yourself as a defenseman?
Owen Pickering: I think I’m a good skater. Defenseman with offensive upside and offensive skills. Good stick defensively. Smart. Can run a power play. Can eat up a lot of minutes.
Guy Flaming: Thirty-three points this year, nine of those goals. When you’re running the power play are you more the setup guy or do you think you have a big shot that you can be the trigger man too?
Owen Pickering: I try to be both. I try to not pigeonhole myself in one spot. But I do try to shoot the puck and also open the lanes up to set up my teammates.
This interview has been edited for clarity and content.