Photo By Lisa McRitchie, All Rights Reserved.
Medicine Hat is significant to the Edmonton Oilers in a number of ways. The Tigers have two Oiler prospects, Tyler Bunz and Tyler Pitlick, who could play a significant role in the very near future, and both would play an enormous role in any post-season success the Tigers might have in 2012.
Last year's installment finished third in the Eastern Conference and fifth overall in the WHL during the regular season, but won two rounds in the WHL playoffs before being swept by eventual WHL Champion Kootenay. Notable for their second-round win over the Red Deer Rebels, the Tigers shut down eventual first-overall selection Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Bunz was instrumental to the Tigers' early playoff success, while Pitlick unsuccessfully tried to hurry back from a broken ankle to join his mates in the playoffs.
This year, Bunz will once again backstop the Tigers, though his backup has yet to be determined. Pitlick's future is up in the air. He signed his entry-level contract with the Oilers last spring, but missed a significant portion of the season due to the ankle injury and was still recuperating through the Oilers' development camp. With such a crowded camp and so many people competing for spots with the professional clubs, the Oilers might be best served by sending Pitlick back to Medicine Hat to heal and continue to develop.
Sending Pitlick back to Medicine Hat opens up a spot on the 50-man list for defensive help should Steve Tambellini decide it's necessary, or give the Oilers room to bolster the Barons' squad, or sign a surprising upstart in training camp. There's also a distinct possibility that Pitlick's featured teammate, Emerson Etem, will make the Anaheim Ducks in training camp, opening up a spot on the top line and the power play for Pitlick. Playing top-level minutes with as many power play minutes as possible can only strengthen Pitlick's game. The Oilers could also inquire as to the possibility of moving Pitlick from right wing back to centre to see exactly what they have in the physically imposing young man from Minnesota.