The other center named Tyler -- Tyler Pitlick, Minnesota State. Being able to select Pitlick with the 31st pick was a complete surprise and I don't expect that this option will be available to Steve Tambellini and Stu MacGregor. If it is, someone in the Oilers' organization should be sprinting to the podium to pick Pitlick.
In reality, Pitlick is likely to go somewhere in the high teens or low 20s, but I'm even higher on him than that. I think Pitlick is one of the twelve or so best prospects in this draft and should be taken somewhere between 12th and 15th.
The writers here discussed the possibilities for the 31st pick as it approached, and Pitlick wasn't really in the discussion because we were sure that someone would snap him up prior to our selection. The names that we were kicking around were Red Deer defenseman Alex Petrovic, Slovakian man-child Martin Marincin, 18-year-old Calle Jarnkrok - a Swede already playing in the SEL, Ludvig Rensfeldt, the big Swedish forward that reminds many of Fredrik Modin, and the big Swedish defender Patrick Nemeth. Throw in Charlie Coyle and goaltender Calvin Pickard, and I would expect that this small group will be both available and very high on the Oilers' radar as the second round kicks off. But since there were a number of silly late-first-round picks made in the SB Nation Mock Draft, I'll take a look at Pitlick after the jump.
Tyler Pitlick is a product of the Minnesota High School Hockey system, where he was a dominant player at Centennial. On the advice of his uncle, former NHLer Lance Pitlick, he chose to stay local and head to Mankato to play for the Mavericks of Minnesota State. It's not a rarity for high school kids to enter the NCAA rather than head to the USHL, but it is a rarity for young freshmen to make an impact. Given the body size and skill level of the rest of the prospect pool, I think there are probably only three or four forwards in the entire draft that would have been able to make an impact in one of the best conferences in the NCAA as an 18 year-old. Pitlick played against men four, five, even six years older than himself and played admirably.
He was protected a bit though as the coaching staff moved him from center to the wing to begin the season. Hockey's Future writer DJ Powers talked to Minnesota State coach Troy Juttig about Pitlick's move to the wing to start his collegiate career:
There are two reasons why we have Tyler playing wing – one is that he’s a goal scorer and I think he has more opportunities to score more goals as a winger, and two is that we place a lot of defensive responsibilities on our centers. For Tyler as an 18-year-old trying to defend against 24-year-olds, there is an adjustment period. He may move back to the middle this year, but he’ll definitely play at center next year.
What’s garnered Pitlick so much attention are his size and tremendous offensive skill set. He has great hands and sees the ice quite well. Pitlick could perhaps best be described as a pure goal scorer. He possesses excellent playmaking and finishing capabilities.
The outstanding Western College Hockey Blog has a look at Pitlick and links to articles and scouting reports about the young center. The lead writer there has seen Pitlick play around fifty times and thinks quite highly of him:
Pitlick is excellent on the wing, where he can use his speed and size on the outside to drive to the net and use his heavy snap shot. He also possesses the ability to play center, and a year of college hockey has improved his defensive game tremendously. Despite being one of the youngest players in college hockey last year, he doesn't back down from anyone physically, and has the strength to dish out his own punishment.
Pitlick led all WCHA rookies in shots, something that bodes well for his future scoring rates. As he develops and learns the game, his shot rates should increase, and given that he's already shooting at a higher level, he should double his goal-scoring output. Unfortunately, we don't have a breakdown of even-strength play and power play time, so I don't know if Pitlick benefited from his play on the power play and was unable to drive the play at even strength, but given the body type and style of play, Pitlick should carry the play this coming season.
Other scouting reports on Pitlick talk about his work in both zones and his superior faceoff skill. Essentially, he's ready-made for the NHL, even if he doesn't become a high-end scorer. He's big, fast, possesses finishing ability, play-making ability, a nice shot, faceoff skill and is quickly becoming a good defensive player. He's already playing against grown men and is performing quite well for a kid.