Tyler Pitlick's Future With The Edmonton Oilers

Jonathan Willis
April 21 2012 12:26PM

In two playoff games, Tyler Pitlick has two goals for the Oklahoma City Barons. Marry this sudden offensive performance with an NHL-calibre frame and a reputation for physical play, and perhaps it isn’t a surprise that Pitlick’s name is increasingly popping up in the comments section of Oilers’ websites.

Could he be the third-line centre of the future?

I’ve spent some time the last few days focusing on the Oilers’ long-term situation. Here at Oilers Nation, I looked at the team’s size down the middle and compared it to recent Stanley Cup finalists, noting that teams have won with two small centres. Over at the Cult of Hockey, I looked at a hypothetical five-year plan for the team and noted the need for a two-way centre with size.

In both places, Tyler Pitlick’s name was advanced as a potential candidate for the “two-way centre with size” role. It’s easy to understand why; here’s what Red Line Report had to say about him in his draft year (via Lowetide):

Accelerates briskly out of cross-over and blows by defenders. Has an NHL calibre shot right now. Flashed the ability to power through defenders. Can gain separation in corners with sharp twists and can turn on a dime. Patient playmaker. Long-limbed with farmboy like strength. Aggressive and finished checks. Can shield the puck and work it down low, but often gives it up due to his eagerness to come off the wall and attempt to dance around defenders. Work in progress defensively – will come back deep and battle for the puck but lacks awareness in coverage assignments. Green in many facets and was stuck on a Mankato team that was every man for himself, but was a big-time talent.

One problem is that Pitlick’s not playing up the middle in Oklahoma City – he’s on right wing. There’s a more significant problem, though: Tyler Pitlick may not have sufficient offense for a feature role at the NHL level.

Let’s use Gabriel Desjardins’ league equivalencies and see how Pitlick projects since his draft year. “NHL82” refers to the projection over tan 82-game NHL season.

Season 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
League WCHA WHL AHL
Games 38 56 62
Goals 11 27 7
Assists 8 35 16
Points 19 62 23
NHL82 G 10 11 4
NHL82 A 7 15 9
NHL82 PTS 17 26 13

So, including his draft year, over the last three seasons we reasonably could have expected Pitlick to score 17, 26 and 13 points at the NHL level. That isn’t the sort of offensive production that keeps a player in the top-nine, particularly if said player is a “work in progress defensively” and “lacks awareness in coverage assignments.” (One will note that Red Line and Stu MacGregor are in disagreement on Pitlick’s two-way ability; all things being equal I’d suggest the truth is probably somewhere in the middle, with Pitlick a guy who competes hard but was a little raw on draft day.)

There is one silver lining: Pitlick’s miserable AHL shooting percentage this year. Red Line lists Pitlick as boasting an “NHL calibre shot right now [i.e., in the summer of 2010]” and given his 27 goals (22 of them at even-strength) in the WHL it seems fair to credit his shot as a strength. This season in the AHL, Pitlick scored just seven goals on 130 shots – a 5.4 SH%. I’d be surprised, given his track record in previous seasons and scouting reports, if Pitlick was less than a 10% shooter at the AHL level. I fully expect that we’ll see him rebound in that department.

Unfortunately, it isn’t enough. Even if we use that reasoning and mentally pencil in twice as many goals for Pitlick this year, he’s still a sub-20 point player in the league equivalencies.

Oilers history isn’t a lot of help, either. Kyle Brodziak scored more at the same age, and he had the same low shooting percentage problem as Pitlick in his rookie year. Marc Pouliot and Jarret Stoll scored way more at the same age. Rob Schremp scored more at the same age. Jean-Francois Jacques scored more at the same age. About the only forward in the Oilers system who ever flirted with an NHL career to score lower at the same age in the AHL is Zack Stortini (Liam Reddox is also in the mix; he was lost in the ECHL at the time).

Tyler Pitlick may rebound next season. He may improve his play in all three zones and everyone knows that NHL teams have a lot of time for guys who play a physical game and are hard on the puck. But Pitlick’s decidedly mediocre offensive performance – and not just at the AHL level – means that it’s a bad idea at this point to even pencil him into a long-term Oilers’ role, let alone to scribble his name down in pen.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Giggsunited
April 21 2012, 12:34PM
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I've been wondering about Pitlick myself on his lack of offensive which concerns me. Hamilton is another one I'm wondering if he will ever be anything but a OKC Baron?

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#2 Talbot17
April 21 2012, 12:34PM
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He definitely has the capability to score but he seemed like one of those players who underestimated the AHL. Hopefully he works hard this offseason and comes into camp even better

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#3 They're $hittie
April 21 2012, 12:36PM
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third line between Hamilton and or Harsky, or Wilson (who the oilers need to get with there second pick. Even if we need to move up two or three spots).

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#4 They're $hittie
April 21 2012, 12:39PM
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@Giggsunited

No worries man,

These two had to fight for space on a deep Barons roster. Nothing wrong with that. It has only been two years since draft and one for Pro. Eberle didnt make the team until the following year. Once they have room (next year with Omark, MPS, Lander and Harsky likely not in OKC there will be room in the top two lines for these guys.

No need to rush. Two more years of horcoff is going to happen so, we will see them than.

Zetterberg and Datsuyk didnt make there teams until they were 23. Gagner isnt 23 yet. No rush with two big blue chip prospects. Dont want to screw them up/

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#5 jake
April 21 2012, 12:42PM
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Why is he playing wing?

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#6 Henry
April 21 2012, 12:45PM
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Saw Pitlick and the Barons the past two playoff games. It was hard to gauge the Barons on Thursday as the Aeros were lifeless. Both teams were good on Friday, but the Barons dominated. This is a well coached team with balance up and down the lineup, particularly with the forwards.

They like Pitlick's shot. They had MPS running the #1 PP with Pitlick sneaking in from the left point as the triggerman. He missed the net a lot, but has a heavy shot. He is a load and skates well. Didn't forecheck hard enough for my liking at his size and speed though. He'll make the NHL, so will Teubert he was much more calm and effective than I've seen before.

Lander was on the wing a lot with Arcobello and Tremblay. That line dominated their shifts. If Tremblay improves at all, he is a candidate to be the next Fernando. Smart positionally, sneaky offense.

MPS hurt his knee and scared me a lot, but came back later looking OK.

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#7 Henry
April 21 2012, 12:47PM
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Sorry, Pitlick was on wing with Arcobello and Tremblay a lot, though Lander was with those guys some too.

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#8 Dulock
April 21 2012, 12:49PM
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I don't think that Stoll, Pouliot, and Brodziak are fair comparables. They all played two years of junior after their first draft-eligible year and Pitlick only played one.

NHLE also doesn't take into acoount ice time or age difference in leagues.

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#9 madjam
April 21 2012, 12:54PM
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Tremblay seems like a good utility player , yet has never been bought up for some reason . Off topic , but what is latest status on the new rink ?

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#10 Giggsunited
April 21 2012, 01:01PM
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@ what is happening to Ebs; agreed, just hope that Pitlick and Hamilton get the playing time and play their right positions next year to see what the are capable of.

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#11 Matt Henderson
April 21 2012, 01:05PM
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Pitlick hasn't been tracking well since he was drafted. He isn't the answer to our problems yet. He could play in a bigger role next season and work his way into being a Call Up option. I'm not impressed with him so far. Good 4th liner decent 3rd Liner maybe. He's played in 3 different leagues for 3 different coaches in the past 3 years. Hopefully a little stability will go a long way for him.

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#12 Oilcruzer
April 21 2012, 01:08PM
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LOVE the way this guy plays. Strong potential to be that player that is needed.

OKC has him working on the other parts of his game but he's kind of like a Staal like player. Strong, skates the same. Might be able to do it all (just not at all star level.)

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#14 Rocknrolla
April 21 2012, 01:17PM
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Henry wrote:

Saw Pitlick and the Barons the past two playoff games. It was hard to gauge the Barons on Thursday as the Aeros were lifeless. Both teams were good on Friday, but the Barons dominated. This is a well coached team with balance up and down the lineup, particularly with the forwards.

They like Pitlick's shot. They had MPS running the #1 PP with Pitlick sneaking in from the left point as the triggerman. He missed the net a lot, but has a heavy shot. He is a load and skates well. Didn't forecheck hard enough for my liking at his size and speed though. He'll make the NHL, so will Teubert he was much more calm and effective than I've seen before.

Lander was on the wing a lot with Arcobello and Tremblay. That line dominated their shifts. If Tremblay improves at all, he is a candidate to be the next Fernando. Smart positionally, sneaky offense.

MPS hurt his knee and scared me a lot, but came back later looking OK.

ThaNks Henry. Always nice to get a perspective on OKC from someone who was there and can pick up on the interesting stuff. I hope they go all the way. Would do wonders for our culture of winning.

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#16 Oilcruzer
April 21 2012, 01:37PM
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Willis - good point. He's a year older.

Thinking out loud, does College Hockey do a relatively poorer job of preparing players compared to Major Junior?

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#17 Sliderule
April 21 2012, 01:42PM
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Pitlick Martindale and Hamilton are guys who were older draftees born between the sept cutoff and Jan.

They all would have been better to go back to junior as an overager .The oil might have thought they were ready or their junior team might not have had room as they can only carry so many overagers.

If they had been born after January all would have had to go back to junior or make the big club as they would not be eligible for the AHL .Eberle was handled this way as will Rieder next season.

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#18 Dman09
April 21 2012, 01:59PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Thanks for that, Henry. Those sorts of comments are always greatly appreciated.

Here is what interests me, excluding Omark and MPS because they weren't there all season, between NHL and Injuries, are there really any highly offensively talented players in OKC to play with him? I remember one interview Nelsen gave and he was talking about the success they have had has been a result of hard work up and down the line up because they don't have a very offensive team compared to others in the league. Would it be more relevent to get some good offensive players in the mix with Pitlick before really being able to determine ability?

I for one would think that any player that works hard every game and gives it his all would be able to put up decent points when paired with guys like RNH and Eberle.

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#19 Henry
April 21 2012, 02:27PM
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Dman09 wrote:

Here is what interests me, excluding Omark and MPS because they weren't there all season, between NHL and Injuries, are there really any highly offensively talented players in OKC to play with him? I remember one interview Nelsen gave and he was talking about the success they have had has been a result of hard work up and down the line up because they don't have a very offensive team compared to others in the league. Would it be more relevent to get some good offensive players in the mix with Pitlick before really being able to determine ability?

I for one would think that any player that works hard every game and gives it his all would be able to put up decent points when paired with guys like RNH and Eberle.

Last year's Barons ran with Giroux who is a real AHL star and had a couple other offense first guys like Moran. This crew doesn't depend on stars and all four lines win their shifts. They cycle a bit to break down the defense and shoot a lot including muffins going for rebounds. They also like to pick off break outs 15 feet inside the blue line with two guys.

To me Arcobello is a guy for Pitlick and some others to learn from as an offensive player. Loose puck just seem to head his way all the time which to me is a sign of a smart guy even if he is a Yaley. Too small to play above the A unfortunately.

They had some pretty good players in the PB too. Would have liked to see Hamilton, Marincin and Krazy Kiril,.

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#20 Rama Lama
April 21 2012, 02:42PM
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This is great news JW......he is already projecting past Horcoff at least offensively! Maybe Horcoff will have to play on the fourth line now?

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#21 OilLeak
April 21 2012, 02:48PM
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Watched the OKC game last night and Pitlick is definitely a step ahead with his shot and speed, he takes some time digging pucks off the wall and in corners which is a little bit concerning, but he finally seems to be progressing after doing nothing all year.

A player that really caught my attention is Arcobello, he was everywhere last night and seems to do everything well. He is a very small player, but typically small players take longer to develop anyways. I would definitely hold onto him, he is an excellent AHL player even if he becomes nothing else.

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#22 Oilers89
April 21 2012, 03:49PM
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@ JW

I don't know if you have the numbers, but isn't it very likely that they are slowly giving him ice time to develop him slowly? If I remember correctly he was not playing very much for most of the year. Maybe if he played in the top six for the entire year we would be seeing a guy with closer to a PPG pace in the AHL. I am not sure if this is true but I am pretty sure that I have heard that.

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#23 They're $hittie
April 21 2012, 04:40PM
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@Oilcruzer

absolutely,

to start most Canadian players who go to college start out in Tier 2 hockey, as NCAA considers Canadian Tier 1 Major Junior a professional league. So already these kids are behind in playing against superior competition.

Next, they move to NCAA, which is a bit better, but still playing against an inferior opponent. Also NCAA colleges tend to stack teams, so you are either on a good team playing poor competition, or a bad team with no one to play with. Biggest problem is the season is only half of that of Major Junior or AHL.

I am really happy the oilers got him to move to the WHL. This is where a kid with his size and speed needs to play. Next the moved him to pro where his development can better be controlled by the oilers.

In the NCAA route, there just isn't enough quality competition and long enough season to make it a sufficient development option. Some players have come out of there and been good (petry) but the time line is usually long. But there have been a lot of bust too. Look at Turris. Other examples and I will start with the oilers are, Chorney, Cogliano, Nash, Gilroy.

I am pumped for the oilers to sign Justin Schultz, Sound a lot like Petry. Remember Petry at the beginning of the year was a wild card. Schultz could be anywhere from a top 3 to a borderline 7th.

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#24 Lexi
April 21 2012, 04:54PM
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I know it's foolish to project Pitlick to a top 9 spot, but his progress in the last two months has been encouraging.

My hope is that OKC becomes the breeding ground for solid 3rd and 4th liners and the strong depth they are showing so far in the playoffs should mean at least a few guys should be a part of the Oilers in the next two years. Look at guys like Greening, Smith and Condra for a playoff team like Ottawa and there are a lot of guys in OKC who are doing more in the AHL than they were at younger ages.

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#25 michael
April 21 2012, 05:04PM
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Late bloomer or overmatched or unmotivated? Pitlick needs more polish and more time in OKC with Todd Nelson is not going to hurt his advancement..

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#26 Dog Train
April 21 2012, 06:07PM
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The difference between a guy like Pitlick and those other guys you mentioned likely lies in ice time. This is the best AHL team that we have had in a long time. From listening to Todd Nelson on Oilers Now a few times this season, it seems as though Pitlick has spent much of the season on the fourth line. Of late, he has been playing in a top six role on a line with Marc Arcobello and Hunter Tremblay. He has flourished in that role.

I am not saying that he is a lock to be an NHL top nine forward. I am just saying that we have to look at the body of work with this player and remember that he is only 20 years old. I understand the whole NHL equivalencies thing and I appreciate the argument that they present. Maybe he would have only scored 13 points in the NHL this season. But he wasn't in the NHL this season and he shouldn't be next season either. The AHL is a good league and he is just starting to get a feel for it.

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#27 Oilers89
April 21 2012, 07:09PM
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Dog Train wrote:

The difference between a guy like Pitlick and those other guys you mentioned likely lies in ice time. This is the best AHL team that we have had in a long time. From listening to Todd Nelson on Oilers Now a few times this season, it seems as though Pitlick has spent much of the season on the fourth line. Of late, he has been playing in a top six role on a line with Marc Arcobello and Hunter Tremblay. He has flourished in that role.

I am not saying that he is a lock to be an NHL top nine forward. I am just saying that we have to look at the body of work with this player and remember that he is only 20 years old. I understand the whole NHL equivalencies thing and I appreciate the argument that they present. Maybe he would have only scored 13 points in the NHL this season. But he wasn't in the NHL this season and he shouldn't be next season either. The AHL is a good league and he is just starting to get a feel for it.

This is what I was also trying to say hah. Ice time is probably a huge factor and I still have a ton of faith in Pitlick. Every time that I have watched Pitlick I have been impressed.

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#28 etownman
April 21 2012, 07:13PM
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I believe Pitlick has the potential to be that guy that can slip into a second line center role & have a huge impact! With the skilled wingers that are going to be on the top two lines having a player with Pitlick's skill set will be essential.

Pitlick & Hamilton started their pro career in the AHL as 19 yr olds. Both players never turned 20 until late in 2011. It looks to me like coach Nelson broke these players in slowly for their first year in the pros because of their age. They started getting more starts as the season wore along & earned their ice time. Both responded identically until Hamilton got hurt. Pitlick has shown significant improvement to this point. I'm thinking (unless he earns spot in training camp) he spends one more year for sure in the AHL, at center is my guess. Remember, both these guys will be 20 yrs old to start next season with birthdays in late Nov & Dec! The Oilers are bringing them along the correct way & I think both will have huge impacts in the roles when they do get here!

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#29 DSF
April 21 2012, 07:50PM
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You can go out and find a very good 3rd line centre on the free agent or trade market.

Drafting and developing one over a 3-5 period is a waste of time.

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#30 Moose
April 21 2012, 07:51PM
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This is a case where stats are probably lying to you. As other have noted, Pitlick (and Curtis Hamilton) were both brought along slowly this year as OKC leaned on vets early in the year. Nelson alluded to it several times. Trying to project his long term future on the Oilers based on this years' numbers is pointless.

With some top 6 UFA's (Keller, Green) and likely graduates in OKC (Hartikainen, MPS), it's not unreasonable to suggest that Pitlick could be playing top line minutes in OKC next year. I think a clearer picture of his future will emerge next year.

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#31 smokinmonkey
April 21 2012, 10:02PM
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I have heard in the past the Pitlick has drawn comparisons to Kesler. I am not saying that he will end up being kesler but if you used the NHLE or whatever it is how would Kesler have looked at this point in his career?? He would have looked like an ok 4th liner and poor 3rd liner wouldn't he? I think Pitlick is coming along fine I agree with 'What is happening to Ebs on the Shootout' he is playing on a deep team. No need to rush him. In his last 20 games he has been .5 points per game. Not too bad for his first season pro where he's fighting for minutes and playing a more physical game than most. A strong playoff will set him up great for next season... PS. Who remembers his first training camp and pre season where he was hitting every player in sight?

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#32 Weasel Wellwood
April 21 2012, 11:10PM
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Smokin, that's a real good question.

". . .how would Kesler have looked at this point in his career??"

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#33 TigerUnderGlass
April 21 2012, 11:46PM
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smokinmonkey wrote:

I have heard in the past the Pitlick has drawn comparisons to Kesler. I am not saying that he will end up being kesler but if you used the NHLE or whatever it is how would Kesler have looked at this point in his career?? He would have looked like an ok 4th liner and poor 3rd liner wouldn't he? I think Pitlick is coming along fine I agree with 'What is happening to Ebs on the Shootout' he is playing on a deep team. No need to rush him. In his last 20 games he has been .5 points per game. Not too bad for his first season pro where he's fighting for minutes and playing a more physical game than most. A strong playoff will set him up great for next season... PS. Who remembers his first training camp and pre season where he was hitting every player in sight?

Kesler scored 30 goals and had 57 points as a 20 year old AHLer.

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#34 madjam
April 22 2012, 09:00AM
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Readjustment in traditional thinking ! Kids coming out of junior right into the parent club are fairing very well nowadays , as witnessed in playoff runs this year especially . These kids are far beyond the old adage of playing 3-5 in minors before coming up to play prominent roles . So much is changing in the game, and the kids are often far enough along and advanced to handle the Nhl rigors right out of juniors despite not being fully mature physically . Hopkins , Hall and Seguin to name but a few .3-5 years almost appears to be archaic in light of how good these juniors are becoming nowadays . Most of them look like they have been in league for several years . Landeskog and Coutourier are major players as another example .

It,s getting harder to judge the benefits if much , by sending kids back to junior or farm club . So why are we still fighting for the basement with 3 fine youngsters in lineup ?

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#35 Smokinmonkey
April 22 2012, 10:19AM
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Tigerunderglass...

Your probably right with the age there my bad. I was meaning in his first year in the ahl. So next season he needs to put up more points. My point was that in keslers first year he would up very low points and look at him now.

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#36 madjam
April 22 2012, 10:25AM
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A lot of juniors are maintaining their junior prowess and learning on the job at an unpresedented rate in first year up in NHL . The new NHL play has a lot to do with their successfull jump . Even defencemen are having success . The game is changing and so are the expedited learning curves of the juniors . Thats progress !!

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#37 RexLibris
April 22 2012, 10:26AM
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Given the comments on Pitlick's lack of defensive awareness and his penchant for trying to do too much with the puck low in the offensive zone I have to think that Nelson is playing him on the wing in part due to the Barons' depth at centre and to take the shock out of this player's learning curve.

At this point I would probably say that Pitlick looks like the better NHL bet than Hamilton, but in either case I think both are still a few years away.

I will suggest this though, if Pitlick does reach his ceiling as a depth RW, then this team needs to draft another centre/winger with some similar skills to Pitlick as a sort of backup or insurance plan. With that in mind, and given Martindale's uncertain development, I am beginning to think that the Oilers will be interested in Henrik Samuelsson or another player with that skill set at the draft, rather than taking a defenceman in the second round.

Oh, and #RiederForCalder2014!

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#38 dulock
April 22 2012, 01:19PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Pitlick also played a year of college those guys didn't get. At age 20 in the AHL, Pitlick trails the offensive performance of all of those guys at the same age and in the same league.

Pitlick played college before he was drafted. It isn't an extra year of playing. He was also 6 months younger than each of those guys when he played his "20 year old" season. If he was two months younger it would be his "19 year old" season. My point still stands that they are poor comparables.

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#39 Badger
April 23 2012, 02:44PM
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Considering how much Pitlick has bounced around, I'd say next year is going to be the real gauge. It'll be his first season playing in the same place. WCHA to WHL to AHL in 3 years. That's a big leap. I definitely saw improvement (though be it only through stats) this season though. The first 40 games he was 0.27 ppg,and the last 22, he was 0.54 ppg. Not sure if that had to do with pp time or his linemates, but its significant. Hopefully he keeps it up in the playoffs, and next year he continues to progress. Maybe some comparables would other Minnesota raised college-type players of his vintage? Backes, Okposo and Stepan maybe?

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#40 BusDriver
April 25 2012, 06:19AM
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2G 2A in 4 games so far...

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