Admirals Rookie Lean on Each Other
Imagine you leave behind friends and family, move to a new city, face off against grown men, and carry the high expectations of an organization on your shoulders. For Jon Blum, Chet Pickard, and Colin Wilson, first round draft picks from the 2007 and 2008 NHL drafts, these are the pressures they face every day.
For these Admirals rookies this change has been a little more comfortable. Not only do they have fellow high draft picks to accompany them as they begin their professional careers, but friends they have had for years to help them along.
Pickard and Wilson have been connected ever since their minor hockey days in Winnipeg. Pickard moved to the area when he was nine and was Wilson’s teammate until they were 14.
“We grew up playing together, our families are really good friends,” Pickard said.
Wilson and Blum were also friends before coming to Milwaukee. The two played together at USA hockey events beginning when they were 14. For Blum it’s funny to think of how their journeys would be linked together, “We were young (when we first met), who knew we’d see each other down the road.”
The friendship triangle was completed when Blum got to know Pickard as they squared off as two of the top prospects in the WHL. “When you play against a guy six or eight times a year you start to figure out who he is,” said Pickard.
The pair really became close after they were drafted. The Nashville Predators selected Blum with the 23rd pick in the 2007 draft and the following year took Pickard with the 18th overall pick.
The pair’s closeness doesn’t stop Blum from reminding Pickard about their first encounter. “I scored my first Western Hockey League goal on him. I had two goals on him that game,” Blum said. “I still rip on him sometimes.”
All three experienced tremendous success in their amateur careers. Blum, the Vancouver Giants all-time leader in assists, took home WHL and CHL defenseman of the year honors in 2009. Pickard also received recognition for his play, winning back-to-back WHL goaltender of the year awards in 2008 and 2009 for the Tri-City Americans. He also was named the top goalie for the CHL in 2009.
Wilson chose a different route, attending Boston University where he won an NCAA championship last season. He was also named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, college hockey’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
Now the trio is together in the Brew City, experiencing pro life together for the first time. A life that has changed drastically since they have become professionals, as Blum can attest to, “You’re on your own here. You’ve got to pay bills, you’ve got to make your own food, but it’s nice. There’s no curfew. They treat you like adults here.”
Even though the change away from the ice has been dramatic, the group agrees that adjusting to the pace of the professional game has been a more difficult transition to make.