A lot of times it sounds like a cop-out, but the simple truth is that for a lot of failed prospects injury is a significant factor. Tyler Pitlick isn’t yet one of those failures, but ‘injury’ looks like the single most prominent obstacle between him and the NHL right now.
The NHL Record
Pitlick has now played seven NHL games, or 3.5 games per leg injury. He lasted a little less than three games the last time he was recalled, back in October, then suffered a knee injury that cost him 19 contests. This time, he made it almost four games before having to leave a contest early with an injury of indeterminate severity.
It might be freakishly bad luck, but based on his history it’s starting to get difficult to dismiss these injuries as simple bad luck.
The Long-Term Record
Pitlick has had two big stretches of effective play in the minors this year.
After a middling start and an NHL recall (ending in injury), he took a little bit of time to find his game. From mid-December to the end of January, the young forward put up 12 points in 15 games and shot the puck on net 51 times.
Then he got hurt and missed three weeks, and took a couple of games to really get back into the swing of things. Then he went on a run where he put up seven points in nine games and recorded 22 shots, culminating in his latest recall and latest injury.
By my count, Pitlick’s up to more than a year’s worth of regular season games lost since he was drafted:
- 2013-14: 25 games (19 NHL, six AHL)
- 2012-13: 32 games in the AHL
- 2011-12: 14 games in the AHL
- 2010-11: 16 games in the WHL
Information on injuries below the NHL level can be hard to find, so the games totals prior to this year are simply the number of regular season games played by his teams that he didn’t participate in, but it should be roughly accurate. In 2010-11, an ankle injury ended Pitlick’s season; since turning pro it’s mostly been knee injuries with a concussion thrown in for variety.
Pitlick does a lot of things well. He’s found his scoring touch in the AHL, he’s big and he’s fast – that’s a pretty nice trio of qualities for a guy on the door of the NHL. But he’s also a 22-year-old who can’t stay healthy and doesn’t project above the bottom-six at the NHL level even if he can. He’ll have to clear waivers if he’s sent down next season, but at this point it’s hard to imagine the Oilers setting aside a fourth line job for him over the summer, simply because he’s a question mark.
It’s not anybody’s fault, but it’s an ugly thing for player and team alike.
Update: Some good news for Pitlick, bad news for fellow winger Ryan Jones,
Dallas Eakins concedes that guys banged up, that’s why so few for optional. Pitlick likely to play vs NYR. Jones out for season, torn PCL.
— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) March 29, 2014