Tyler Pitlick - #22 In The Top 25 Under 25

Dale MacMillan

Tyler Pitlick is in a freefall. Is there any hope that he might be an NHL player?

So I say, for God's sake, why don't you stand up and fight this guy HARD? Like you done before, that was beautiful! But don't lay down in front of him like this! Like, uh, I don't know, like some kind of mongrel or something. Cause he's gonna kick your face in pieces! That's right! This guy don't just wanna win, you know, he wants to bury ya, he wants to humiliate ya, he wants to prove to the whole world that you was nothin but some kind of a freak the first time out. He said you were a one-time lucky bum! Well now, I don't wanna get mad in a biblical place like this, but I think you're a helluva lot more than that kid! A helluva lot! But now wait a minute, if you wanna blow this it, if you wanna blow this thing, then damn it I'm gonna blow it with ya. If you wanna stay here, I'll stay with ya. I stay with ya. Yeah, I'll stay and pray. What do I got to lose?

--Me, with Tyler Pitlick in church.

No one fell harder than Tyler Pitlick. In July, he was #13, just six-and-a-half months later, he's nearly off of the list at #22. I remain the lone holdout on the future of Tyler Pitlick. I dropped him in the rankings from 9 to 16, and it was really difficult for me to drop him that far. I know his results are MIA, I know he's not close to living up to expectations, but there's something there. He's got the size, speed, strength and other physical abilities necessary to be a player, he just hasn't put it together yet. But I'm going to stay with Pitlick. I'm going to stay and pray. What do I got to lose?


Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Alan
Ben
Bruce
DB
Derek
JW Michael Ryan
Scott
22 Tyler Pitlick 11/01/91
31 2010
27 18 19 27 16 31 26 19 22

Previous Rank: Unlucky 13

It's easy to see where the collapse came from. Alan dropped him from 18 to 27, DB from 14 to 27, Scott from 17 to 22, and Jonathan from 14 to 31. Jonathan had Pitlick ranked lower than anyone, mostly because he hates the player:

Tyler Pitlick just looks like a hockey player, but the on-ice results keep going the wrong way. His NHL equivalency numbers have gone from a high of 27 points over an 82-game season in his one year of junior down to 13 points as an AHL rookie to six points this season. The fact is he's shown no signs of being able to score at the AHL level. Toni Rajala's played 19 AHL games and almost has eclipsed Pitlick's goal production over 94 regular season contests. There doesn't seem to be much wrong with Pitlick's shot, but watching him during the lockout he struggles to get into prime goal-scoring areas - he's the kind of guy who blasts the puck from odd angles or the high slot. He's probably not a career two percent shooter (the pace he's at this season) but he also seems unlikely to be a significant goal-scorer unless he changes his game. Injuries are a big part of the story, too, far more than they should be so early into Pitlick's career.

I kid, of course, Jonathan doesn't hate Pitlick, and his concerns are valid. I wrote about Pitlick's shooting percentage just last week:

Snakebitten doesn't begin to describe what's happened to Tyler Pitlick since turning pro:

Year League GP G A P S S% S/G
2009-10 NCAA 38 11 8 19 72 15.28% 1.89
2010-11 CHL 56 27 35 62 150* 18.00%* 2.68*
2011-12 AHL 62 7 16 23 130 5.38% 2.10
2012-13 AHL 32 1 4 5 52 1.92% 1.63


*Estimated

...

The obvious takeaway from this table is Pitlick's brutal 4.4% shooting percentage on 182 shots in Oklahoma City. I'm not concerned with the fall-off in shots per game this year - his playing time was suppressed by the presence of the Oilers in the lineup. What I am concerned about is the shooting percentage.

Pitlick is either suffering an incredible run of luck or his shot is as threatening as the average defenseman, and that doesn't make much sense. Pitlick has a heavy shot, and by most accounts an accurate shot. But if it's a plus shot, which scouting reports say it is, and Pitlick were a true talent 9% shooter, the odds of him scoring 8 or less goals on 182 shots are less than 2%. If he's a true talent 8% shooter, the odds are approximately 4%. So Pitlick is either a forward with a plus shot suffering through an abnormal amount of bad luck, or the shot that we believe is superior is actually inferior to the average forward, and not even as effective as Colten Teubert.

But, as Jonathan notes, this might not all be luck-driven. If Pitlick is incapable of creating his own shot in the kill zone, his shooting percentage is always going to lag. But even for a perimeter player, it's still lagging due to bad luck. I still believe Pitlick is capable of creating those scoring opportunities and compare his shot rates to Teemu Hartikainen's: Hartikainen averaged 2.08 shots per game in his Oklahoma City career, Pitlick 1.93 per game. Of course, Teemu scored on 13% of his shots, mostly due to his ability to get shots off from the slot and crease. Are Pitlick's struggles completely related to that one final stride, finish and finesse in the offensive zone? If so, there are a couple of Oilers who might be able to help him out.

There are a few other problems related to Pitlick's development that we've talked about before:

  • Injuries - Pitlick is recovering from his second significant injury to his lower body in three years.
  • Consistency - Pitlick started in the NCAA playing mostly 3rd and 4th line minutes before moving to the WHL after one season at the Oilers' behest. His played just 56 games in Medicine Hat on the top line and 2nd line before his season ended with a broken ankle. The Oilers moved him from Medicine Hat to Oklahoma City, his 3rd team and league in three seasons, where he played mostly 3rd line minutes, with a small percentage of 2nd line shifts mixed in. He's back in Oklahoma City again this season, but was pushed well down the depth chart by the locked out NHL players and is again dealing with another injury. His development curve is an Andy Warhol blood spatter.

Perhaps there's a lesson in Pitlick's path to the NHL. It's anecdotal, but what if Pitlick stayed in the NCAA at Minnesota State for three or four seasons? Would his game have developed differently? Would the opportunity to shape his offensive game outside of the AHL have made a difference in his development arc? What if he had an additional year in the WHL with Medicine Hat? Would a year of being a go-to player matter to his career?

There is still hope for Pitlick. He's still young. He won't turn 22 until next November. If he can stay healthy, he's got the physical skills, he needs to put a complete game together and figure out how to create his own scoring chances a la Teemu Hartikainen. The ability is there. Perhaps a few lessons are in order.

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