Tyler Pitlick is a prospect on his last legs. After being drafted with the first pick of the second round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, he posted modest offensive totals (27G-35A-62P-56GP) for a prospect of his draft pedigree with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL.
He left the WHL after one season and joined the Oklahoma City Barons in the AHL where his offensive output continued to disappoint, despite being a player once praised for his strong stride and wicked release.
It wasn't until 2013-2014 after a very strong training camp in front of then-new Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins that Pitlick's boxcars started to show signs of life at the AHL level (8G-14A-22P-39GP). He earned himself an early call up in October of 2013, but managed just one goal and no assists over ten games with the big club.
That season injected new promise into Pitlick's career, reflected in our previous version of these rankings when he sat at sixteenth—his highest placement since joining the Oilers prospect pipeline in 2010.
Now, after the graduation of Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz due to age, and the departure of Martin Marincin to the Toronto Maple Leafs via trade, Pitlick has heaved himself a little bit higher. Here's how the voting panned out for him this time around.
He managed 3G-6A-9P-14GP in the AHL last season—decent production over a very small sample size. He also grabbed himself a look at the NHL level where he posted just two goals in 17 games. It's no secret injuries have been a persistent issue for him over his career, with his latest being a lacerated spleen that caused him to miss three months last season. He suited up for just 31 games in the NHL and AHL combined in 2014-2015.
Meanwhile, his inability to create offence at the NHL level continues to be worrisome for a player drafted so high, and one gets the feeling that the one-year two-way deal he signed with the organization this summer just might be the last he ever will unless he starts to produce.
He'll have another shot at doing so going into training camp this fall if he can outmuscle utility forward Rob Klinkhammer and fellow prospect Iiro Pakarinen for the rightwing spot on the Oilers' fourth line. His performance in exactly that role—against middling competition with tough zone starts—over a short sample last season suggests he can have success there. The bubble colouring below represents Corsi Rel, and Pitick's sphere is a good looking shade of dark blue, just below the x-axis at roughly 40% offensive zone starts. The chart is courtesy of Rob Vollman and Robb Tufts at Hockey Abstract.
Pitlick himself knows the stakes are high for him heading into the 2015-2016 season as he'll once again be trying make a good first impression on a new Oilers head coach.
"I have to try and make the team full-time, contribute and be a big part of the team this year to earn myself another contract and to stay with the team. It’s a big year for me, if I don’t have a good year, or if I get injured, who knows what will happen to me next year? So it’s a big year."
He has a good shot at sticking with the team this fall, even through the season and beyond next summer—if he can add a little offence to his game at the NHL level.