The first prospect I followed closely as a fan was Bob Gainey. Not because I’m an expert in the field of defensive forwards, but because his boxcar numbers looked puny compared to all of the other first round picks in 1973. How could Montreal value a forward who scored 22 goals in a season, when the guy who was taken just before Gainey had 58 goals? The answer, it came to pass, was that prospects have varying areas of strength and weakness, and Bob Gainey’s value was only on display during the defensive side of the game.
As a fan, I’ve been staring a Tyler Pitlick for a long time, trying to figure out what kind of player we’re looking at, and what kind of player we should expect when he arrives as an Oiler. The problem I have figuring out Pitlick is this: most everyone I talk to suggests to me he’s on track as an NHL prospect. Good size, good skater, hits people and moves the puck well. And the people I’m talking to (Todd Nelson, Jim Byers, Eric Rodgers, Neal Livingston, Patricia Teter) are smart people with an eye for good hockey.
However, the boxcars and any available advanced stats suggest something else. The most damning evidence comes from his shooting percentage:
This is a terrible number for a forward, simply awful. Pitlick is touted as having a heavy shot–Redline made a point of mentioning it in his draft day bio–but so far in his pro career Tyler Pitlick has a shooting percentage of of 5%. Ryan Smyth, a man whose slapshot can’t rip paper, has a career shooting percentage of 11.4 in his NHL career. So it isn’t the power of the shot.
THINGS ARE LOOKING UP!
During this training camp, Pitlick has shot the puck 5 times, and all of them I recall came from a long way–a long way–out. Pitlick doesn’t seem to be a shrinking violet, he’s hit everything that moves most nights, but doesn’t have the puck on his stick long and doesn’t drive to the net. He caught Jesse Joensuu driving to the net last night with a perfect pass to post his only crooked number (3, 0-1-1 +1) during training camp.
I’m pleased for Pitlick this fall, as new coach Dallas Eakins has been seeing him good:
- Eakins: "I keep trying to send him down and he keeps playing like that. Every time I turned around he was running into somebody. I grabbed him after the second period and asked him if he wanted to play in the NHL because if he keeps playing like that, it won’t be too long until he is. He needs to keep the fire lit and he bought himself another game tomorrow."
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I have no idea if Tyler Pitlick will ever play in an NHL game. I do have a better idea about him as a prospect, though. He has a nice range of skills, can pass, make a pass, play a physical game and bring energy every shift. He also has a good shot, but he’s wasting a lot of gun powder because he’s taking those shots from long range.
I have no idea how hard it is to coach that into a player, but it has to be easier than teaching size. I’m upbeat about Pitlick, here’s hoping good things happen for him in Oklahoma City and Edmonton this season.