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#17 - Tyler Pitlick

Tyler Pitlick bounces back from a weak showing in our last Top 25 Under 25, climbing eight spots this time around.

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

In our last edition of the Top 25 Under 25 Tyler Pitlick almost found himself on the outside looking in. Since peaking at #12 in our Winter 2011 rankings, only a few months removed from being drafted by the Oilers with the 31st overall pick in the 2010 NHL entry draft, Pitlick had been in steady decline. From 12 to 13, to 22, and now down to 25. A player we'd all once upon been quite optimistic about had now received more votes outside of the Top 25 than he did inside.

The opening sentence of Scott's writeup summarized the situation perfectly: "Tyler Pitlick hasn't progressed the way many of us expected him to after being drafted in 2010." Six months later though it's a completely different story and now we find Pitlick in the 17th position. As you can see below, there is a lot of variance in our rankings, but one thing we can agree on is that he belongs in Top 25.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Alan Ben Bruce DB Derek JW Michael Ryan Scott Zsolt
17 Tyler Pitlick 91/11/01 31 2010 (EDM) 14 22 18 16 14 17 18 16 23 11

Previous Rank: 25

The 2013/14 season started with Pitlick playing in Oklahoma City with the Barons after a very strong training camp with Edmonton. With injuries depleting the Oilers roster he was recalled within weeks of opening night, and he got his first chance to play in a regular season NHL game on October 22 in Montreal. Two games after that he recorded another first, his first career goal while playing against the Coyotes. And then, presumably because things were going too well for him, he his ACL. In December when his knee was fully healed he was returned to the Barons.

For Pitlick injuries have been an ongoing problem. Click through past posts on him in the Top 25 Under 25 and you'll notice quite quickly that it's a recurring theme with him. It'd be understandable if all of the injuries were starting to get to him but that doesn't seem to be the case. In December, shortly after getting back on skates, he had this to say to Derek Van Diest:

I went from highest of highs, scoring my first NHL goal, to a torn ACL. It was tough mentally to take that. But those things happen, you just have to stick with it. We still have lots of season left and hopefully I can come back and start off where I left off.

He hasn't exactly picked up where he left off, he's in Oklahoma City remember, but he's put together some strong numbers since returning to the Barons lineup. In 26 games this season Pitlick has scored six goals and added another nine assists for 15 points. 0.58 points per game isn't exactly lighting the AHL on fire, in fact it ranks him fourth among Barons forwards this season (and one of those four is no longer playing hockey in North America) and is less than half of Anton Lander's pace. But it's a massive improvement over the 0.23 he posted last season. And it's much more in line with natural growth from the 0.37 he posted as a rookie. Basically it looks like he's back on track.

Another encouraging sign is that Pitlick is, once again, taking a lot of shots. In his rookie year with the Barons Pitlick averaged 2.1 shots a night, last season that declined by about 20% to 1.7 shots per game. And to make things worse he couldn't catch a break with the percentages which didn't help with the counting numbers mentioned earlier. This year though hes getting more pucks than ever to the net, 2.8 per game, tops among forwards and second only to Taylor Fedun, and the shooting percentage has come around as well, currently he's shooting 8.3% for the year.

Pitlick has always had a skill set that intrigued. He's got speed to burn, he's reasonably big (6'2" and 196 lbs according the Barons website), and he's more than willing to finish his checks. For a while though nothing went his way and it started to look as if that would never change. Even this year he hit another road block, but it looks like tat's in the rearview mirror now as well. He's still a long way from making a career playing in the NHL but he's a lot closer today than he was a year ago, and I suspect that as the Oilers limp to the finish line again that we'll get another look at him in Edmonton before the season ends.