Among the Oilers cuts last night were four players who found the waiver wire this morning. NHL prospects and suspects who are trying to make the NHL as regulars only get so many training camps to show their stuff, and Brad Hunt, Tyler Pitlick, Andrew Miller and Ryan Hamilton just lost them one. How far is the gap between Tyler Pitlick and Rob Klinkhammer?
Ryan Hamilton has been everywhere, man. He played for the Burnaby Express of the BCJHL and the Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) at age 16 and has been receiving his education in the cities of two nations for the entire century. Now 30, he is in the second year of his current contract (I believe it’s the most lucrative of his career) Hamilton’s education no doubt holds him in good stead today. If he doesn’t get claimed by the other 29 teams, Hamilton will mentor Yakimov, Chase and others who spent the last 10 days trying to beat him out for a job. It’s a strange position to be in, but that’s the game.
is pure madness offensively in the AHL. It’s clear he belongs in a higher league but the question is, which one? He’s an adventure defensively but the offensive potential is exceptional. His NHLE for his AHL career so far is 82GP, 9-20-29 . That’s very good for a defenseman and this year he was scoring at even strength too. Brad Hunt is an elite-level offensive talent in the AHL, I’m comfortable with stating it as fact. His NHL looks have been chaotic and that’s keeping him outside the NHL. Will another team take a chance? Will the Oilers trade him in a minor league deal, preferring to audition Joey Laleggia and Jordan Oesterle in the offensive defenseman role?
may have paid dividends for the Oilers organization already. I spoke to Tom Lynn on the Lowdown last winter, he told me the number one thing college kids are looking for in signing with an NHL team is opportunity. Lynn said a team (like Edmonton) that gives opportunities (and NHL minutes) to college free agents after signing them gets noticed. I think Miller has a decent chance of getting a recall this season.
Tyler Pitlick was supposed to be an established NHL player by now, but injuries and lack of offense have him here. Pitlick’s offense in junior looked good but he hasn’t posted the kinds of AHL numbers that suggest he’ll have an NHL career. Last season, at age 23 he scored 14GP, 3-6-9 (.643 points-per-game) in the minors, by far his best number so far. At the same age, Rob Klinkhammer posted 72GP, 10-14-24 (.333 points-per-game) and hadn’t played an NHL game yet. The lesson? Stay healthy, keep going. Pitlick’s NHL career may not look as we thought it might in 2010 but all is not lost. If he can play a full schedule in the AHL, things could be different a year from now.
For these four men, waivers ends tomorrow and then they are (likely) off to Bakersfield for training camp. The AHL Bakersfield Condors begin their season later in the fall and all four players would be substantial members of the team if it works out that way.
It’s also possible that all four men see the NHL again this season. More cuts to come and only 23 spots available, the most difficult choices are ahead.
Most of the men who were waived today will get another chance, and can look to Anton Lander—himself on waivers last fall and now a part of Edmonton’s roster—for inspiration. Willie Nelson’s “Me and Paul” should also offer comfort, if a talent like Willie couldn’t get on the stage in Buffalo it tells you more about Buffalo than it does Willie Nelson.
I don’t know Pitlick, Miller, Hunt or Hamilton. If I did, I’d tell them to keep on trucking, exhaust every opportunity until you’re sure it’s gone or you’ve lost interest in the pursuit. Whatever comes after, it’ll very likely be a lesser dream for these men.
(Ryan Hamilton and Tyler Pitlick photos by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved).