"I keep trying to send him down, and he keeps playing like that...Every time I turned around he was running into somebody. I don't know how many hits they credited him for but I think he had probably ten."
That’s what Dallas Eakins had to say about Tyler Pitlick in the midst of his very strong showing during training camp last season. This time around, Pitlick enters camp as one of about six or seven players vying for the final three forward spots on the Oilers roster.
The table below shows where everyone placed him in this edition of the rankings.
In his prospect rankings after the 2010 draft, Lowetide had this to say about Pitlick, who he had ranked as Edmonton’s fourth best prospect at the time:
"Oilers fans should consider Pitlick a second 1st round draft pick, as most lists had him going in the top 30. A wide range of skills (size, speed, skill, grit, plus shot) elevate him to top 5 status."
That sounds about accurate for a player who was once on track to be a Ryan Kesler clone. Unfortunately, Pitlick has seen his perceived potential go from "top-six forward" to "fourth line if he’s lucky." That said, a strong training camp last season followed by increased offence in the AHL (0.56 PPG) in 2013-2014 have kept him afloat on the organizational depth chart for the time being.
In fact, in our previous Top 25 Under 25 rankings last winter, Pitlick surged to number 17 after being ranked the lowest he ever had at 25th on the list before. Now he’s jumped up one spot to 16—possibly a sign of the urgency that’s now being associated with the player. This past summer, Pitlick must have felt some of that urgency himself as he's come into camp at 202 lbs.—about ten pounds heavier than he's been in previous years.
The 2015 draft will mark the end of Pitlick’s fifth year in the Oilers system. Signed to a new one year contract as a restricted free agent this summer, it feels a lot like now-or-never for the former second round pick, and he has a tremendous opportunity to win a roster spot out of camp this month.
And if he doesn't, he'll have to pass through the waiver wire and face the reality of either: a) leaving the Edmonton Oilers organization via a waiver claim, or b) league-wide rejection and another seemingly damning season in the minors.