May 04 2013 08:40AM
Tyler Pitlick's pro hockey career has been just this shy of a train wreck. Terrible boxcars married to serious injury, and many nights as a scratch didn't help either. His most recent injury--and its severity--appear to have had an impact on the young man. Whatever happened, he is showing some signs of life after a long, long period of transition.
Pitlick was part of the 2010 NHL entry draft, which (incredibly) is now three years old. For players drafted in 2010, we should be seeing legit progress toward the NHL, a bunch of good arrows that suggest a future in the world's best league.
- #1 Taylor Hall: Oilers best player, and one of the NHL's best at age 21.
- #31 Tyler Pitlick: Has scored 10 goals in 106 AHL regular season games. Injuries major impact.
- #46 Martin Marincin: Showing nice progress in AHL, on track as an NHL prospect.
- #48 Curtis Hamilton: Hanging by a thread as a prospect, again injuries in AHL having an impact. Doesn't win enough battles.
- #61 Ryan Martindale: Big man not doing enough to stay in AHL lineup.
- #91 Jeremie Blain: Unsigned by the Oilers, struggled in his first pro season.
- #121 Tyler Bunz: Struggled badly as a rookie pro. Badly.
- #162 Brandon Davidson: Epic season of good and bad, lost much of the year to cancer treatment but has recovered and is playing a regular shift in the AHL playoffs. Amazing story.
- #166 Drew Czerwonka: Lost his career to injury, did not sign a pro contract.
- #181 Kristians Pelss: Earned a pro deal, has been impressive and injured during rookie season.
- #202 Kellen Jones: Had an average offensive season in the NCAA.
In mid-January, Pitlick suffered a knee injury that looked severe enough to threaten his season and beyond. He played January 19th and did not return to action until March 29th (10 weeks).
You never know with injuries. The impact they have on prospects is enormous, and yet we seem to forget them when talking about prospect progress. The other day on twitter there was a 20-tweet exchange about how Alex Plante was such a disappointment, but nary a mention of the plethora of concussions that have heavily impacted his career.
Such is the nature of the procurement and development business, which makes the recent (in a very small sample size) performance by Pitlick so encouraging.
THE GOOD NEWS
In my many conversations with Jim Byers (OKC Barons play by play man) and Todd Nelson (Barons coach) over the last couple of years, I've come away with a couple of impressions: they like the player, his physical style and effort, but the results lag and overall the performance has been wanting. This is reflected in Pitlick's ridiculous pro shooting percentage:
- 2011-12: 7 goals on 130 shots (5.38 shooting percentage)
- 2012-13: 3 goals on 76 shots (3.95 shooting percentage)
For a forward, that's beyond terrible, bordering on impossible. Earlier this year, Derek Zona had a look at Pitlick's pro shooting percentage and drew this conclusion:
- Zona: Pitlick is either suffering an incredible run of luck or his shot is as threatening as the average defenseman, and that doesn't make much sense. Pitlick has a heavy shot, and by most accounts an accurate shot. But if it's a plus shot, which scouting reports say it is, and Pitlick were a true talent 9% shooter, the odds of him scoring 8 or less goals on 182 shots are less than 2%. If he's a true talent 8% shooter, the odds are approximately 4%. So Pitlick is either a forward with a plus shot suffering through an abnormal amount of bad luck, or the shot that we believe is superior is actually inferior to the average forward, and not even as effective as Colten Teubert.
Which brings us to the good news: the hockey Gods may be turning Pitlick's pro career toward a sunny day.
- last 10 games: 3 goals on 21 shots (14.29 shooting percentage)
Look, it's a small, small sampe, a thin, thin line on miles and miles of TOI and man games. However, it's also a sign of good health, consistent minutes and some results on effort. Jesus, Joseph and Mary this young man deserves something after all this time!
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
As fans, it's sometimes difficult to hide our disappointment when prospects struggle and fail. Our favorite team invested very dear draft picks on them, why can't they play better?
Lots of reasons, of course, and we know that to be true--history teaches us that much. So when Tyler Pitlick's shooting percentage goes from hell to heaven, here's hoping he is enjoying it and can keep it going.
I'm going to cheer like hell for him. A win tonight means another week of games and who knows, maybe this month will be the period of time we look back on as a turning point in his pro career.
The hockey Gods are shining a light. Finally, a pulse.