October 25 2013 05:07PM
I've written an article about Tyler Pitlick over 40 times since he was drafted, which means I'm either diligent or a sucker for punishment. Pitlick's career progression is a reminder for all of us: these prospects rarely go in a straight line, and sometimes they lose one or two useful things along the way.
Pitlick had a solid year in Medicine Hat, then turned pro in the fall of 2011. Pitlick's AHL career (113, 11-25-36) didn't give us much to talk about in terms of an NHL future, but the scouting reports always said "he'll play in the NHL" and he "has size and speed."
In conversations with various Barons onlookers over the last 2+ seasons, I've been able to cobble together a vision of him as a player in my mind's eye: The coach and management always liked the player, his physical style and effort, but the results lagged and overall the performance left them wanting. These are my words, but that's the thrust of what I've been told many times in these months.
A NEW SET OF EYES
Part of Pitlick's problem was offense, and his shooting percentage has been butt ugly since turning pro:
- 2011-12: 7 goals on 130 shots (5.38 shooting percentage)
- 2012-13: 3 goals on 76 shots (3.95 shooting percentage)
- 2013-14: 1 goal on 10 shots (10.00 shooting percentage)
Pitlick shoots the puck from anywhere past center ice, and I think that's a major reason for his low pro percentages. This begs the question: why on earth doesn't he get closer before shooting? That might be the key to unlocking him offensively in pro hockey.
The big break for Pitlick happened this training camp, when Dallas Eakins (who himself has been coaching AHL players for some time) saw the size/speed in Pitlick and liked him right away.
If there's one thing the recall of Pitlick shows all of the men in the AHL playing for the Barons, it's this: work your ass off, because the coach notices. What kind of inspiration does that represent for Martin Marincin or Ryan Martindale or Curtis Hamilton? One of their own--a guy drafted the same years as they were taken--is in the NHL.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Way back on June 26, 2010, Robin Brownlee had the story. Pitlick: "I'm a big guy who's not afraid to use his body. I make a lot of hits and stuff like that, but I've also got some skill to make plays and score goals, so..."
Tyler Pitlick made it to the NHL, age 21. After 28 months as an Oiler curio, he's an overnight sensation. And an inspiration.
(Photos of Pitlick by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved)