LOS ANGELES — The Edmonton Oilers were contemplating selecting a big centre named Tyler going into the NHL Entry Draft. They got him Saturday morning in the form of Tyler Pitlick.
Pitlick, 18, the nephew of former NHLer Lance Pitlick, won’t ever be mistaken for silky smooth Tyler Seguin, but the six-foot-two, 195-pound pivot fits the bill for what the Oilers wanted from the 31st pick — he’s big, gritty and has some skill. Not mad skill, but not hands of wood, either.
"I’m a big guy who’s not afraid to use his body," Pitlick said. "I make a lot of hits and stuff like that, but I’ve also got some skill to make plays and score goals, so . . ."
A lot of hockey people projected Pitlick, who is leaving Minnesota State to play for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL next season, as a first-round selection. He was rated 18th among North American skaters by CSS.
That made for a bit of tossing and turning Friday night when he didn’t go in the top 30. He’s over it.
"I was a little disappointed," Pitlick said. "I was really hoping I would have gone that day, but I’m here today and I went first, so I can’t really be too unhappy. I’m excited.
"It was a little tough because I really wanted to go in the first round. It’s been a goal of mine since day one, but I’m here now."
With his freshman year at Minnesota State done and a ticket to Medicine Hat for next season already set, Pitlick figures he’ll end up challenging for a roster spot with the Oilers sooner than later.
"I’m hoping to take a year," Pitlick said. "It depends on how my season goes next year. Maybe I’ll get called up, maybe not. Hopefully, in the next year or so I’ll be in the NHL."
Pitlick interviewed with the Oilers at the NHL combine, but he didn’t get any real inkling they were after him — then again, he wasn’t expecting to be around when they picked to open the second round.
"Before that, I think I filled out a questionnaire and did a few tests online, but other than that, I really hadn’t had too much contact," he said. "It (interview) was pretty much the same as all the other ones. I thought it went well. I felt they definitely showed a little bit of interest."
Pitlick played mostly on the wing for Minnesota State, scoring 11-8-19 with 27 penalty minutes in 38 games. But school, says Pitlick, takes a backseat to hockey, so he’s headed to the WHL.
"I think it’ll help my offence," Pitlick said. "I didn’t show as much offence as I had in the past last year. Being at Medicine Hat, I’ll have some help to show a little bit more offence.
"Last year, I was one of the youngest guys in college hockey and I showed a physical presence. It’s part of my game . . . it’s tough for me to balance hockey and school. Hockey is my main focus, my main passion. It’s the only thing I really want to do. I want to play hockey."
Edmonton seems a fit. It’s not like Pitlick is looking at a set line-up with the Oilers, even with so many prospects on the way in the next season or two. He’ll get a shot.
"It seems like they’re trying to build the team and make it better," he said. "We’ll see. Hopefully, I can help them out. Hopefully, I can get there as soon as possible."
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