Chilliwack Chiefs rookie has speed to spare

Kaden Pickering may be the fastest skater in the BCHL and should be an impact player.

If you have an affinity for hockey players with speed, you’re going to enjoy watching Kaden Pickering play this season.

Chilliwack Chiefs head coach Jason Tatarnic says No. 18 is possibly the fastest player in the BCHL, a league that is filled with burners.

Pickering’s speed has already manifested itself in early-season action.

Versus Langley last Friday, Pickering got a step on a flat-footed Langley defender on a rush down the right wing.

That blueliner was forced to haul him down, but not before the 19 year old got a shot off that led to a rebound goal by Michael Lombardi.

The next night, in Langley, Pickering’s short-area quickness helped him pick the pocket of two Rivermen in the neutral zone.

He was able to pull away on a breakaway from center ice and score the overtime winner.

It was his first BCHL goal.

“I didn’t have any points in the preseason, but come the regular season I started feeling more confident,” he said. “I hope that goal is a sign that I’m going to be good to go for the rest of the season.”

This thing about Pickering being the fastest skater on the Chiefs hasn’t been tested. You’d think some of the boys would settle the matter with a race at practice, but Pickering says they haven’t and probably won’t.

“I’d like to think I’m the fastest guy here, but there are a lot of fast guys, and if we raced end line to end line I’m sure a few of them could beat me,” Pickering said. “We all have our strengths and we respect that, so it doesn’t matter if I’m faster than another guy because he might have better hands than I do or be stronger than I am.

“We all have our strong suits and we’re good with it.”

The key to his wheels, he says, is in the first three strides.

“Your first three steps have to be really powerful because that’s where you separate yourself from your opponent,” he said. “It’s not quick little choppy strides.It’s powerful outward 45 degree angle back stride that gets all of your leg into it.

“In a game I think you notice it most coming down the boards to catch a cross-ice pass or coming out of our zone, using some cross-overs to gain speed, flying down the boards and cutting to the net — I think that’s when I’m fastest.

“My hands were never that great so I relied on my skating quite a bit.”

The teenager describes himself as a hard-nosed guy who isn’t flashy but gets the job done and that jives with what Tatarnic’s seen.

“He brings that speed and he also brings work ethic and he’s been rewarded for his hard work in the first few games,” the coach noted. “I know his college is high on him and you can see why.

“He has a good attitude, he takes care of himself, he’s a leader and he has the makings of being a really good player at this level.”

Pickering has committed to the St. Lawrence University Saints and will probably be a one-and-done in Chilliwack.

Prior to the Chiefs, Pickering spent three seasons playing prep school hockey at Northwood School in Lake Placid, NY.

He calls it a fantastic experience which prepared him well for the BCHL life.

“Every day you have a set schedule where you’re up at seven, you eat breakfast and you’re off to practice,” Pickering explained. “You go to school, take an hour off for dinner and you’re back to your room to study for two hours.

“It’s a lot of structure, and you are almost forced to become an independant student and athlete. They prepare you very well to move on in hockey and in life.”

While he’s here, the self-described outdoorsman with a love of fishing is eager to see what our mountains, rivers and lakes have to offer.

He and his dad road-tripped all the way from New York to get him here for training camp, stopping to put lines in the water along the way.

Hockey season keeps the Chiefs hopping, but Pickering hopes he’ll have a few chances to explore.

“We tried our luck at a few lakes in Montana looking to catch some trout,” he said. “Probably a lot of guys who come out here to play junior are from cities but I come from more of a rural background.

“When I was nine years old I remember going ocean fishing in Puerto Rico and caught a 30-35 pound tarpon and that was pretty awesome.

“I’ve fished for sturgeon too and had a few on the line, but I’ve never landed one, so I’d love to catch one of those here.”

Catch Pickering and the Chiefs in action tonight (Friday) at 7:30 p.m. as they take on the Trail Smoke Eaters at the BCHL Showcase.

They’re back at it tomorrow with another 7:30 p.m. puck drop at Prospera Centre vs the Penticton Vees.

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