This is a short series on the next group of Oiler prospects graduating to professional hockey. The articles focus on the skills the players have and those where there are opportunities for improvement. The articles tries to establish what a successful first year of pro hockey would look like for the player.
When the Oilers drafted Carter Savoie and Tyler Tullio in the 4th and 5th rounds of the 2020 NHL draft, the picks were universally regarded as smart moves by Ken Holland. Each player had been ranked much higher than where they were taken and Holland traded a higher pick for these two picks effectively getting a 2 for 1 deal. Since that time a great degree of focus has been on Savoie. Certainly, most of that has to do with him being a local product, but also a national championship run didn’t hurt. In the meantime though, Tyler Tullio went about his business for the Oshawa Generals. As with all OHL players in 2020/21, Tullio was left without a place to play and subsequently went to the top league in Slovakia. In his draft plus two year or his 19 year old season he returned to the Generals recording 86 points in 65 games including a tidy 42 goals in the best junior league in the world. With a loss in the playoffs to the Kingston Frontenacs in the OHL playoffs, Tullio finished his junior career. Looking forward to the 2022/23 season, Tullio is certainly headed for Bakersfield to start his pro career (he actually signed an amateur tryout in the 2020/21 season, but never played). So what does he bring? What can we expect? What does a successful season look like for Tyler Tullio?
What Tullio Brings To The Table?
I rarely make this a part of my assessment of a player, but it cannot be avoided with Tyler Tullio - the young man has heart plus. In addition to wearing the “C”, indicating his leadership capabilities, Tullio will do literally anything to help his team succeed on the ice. Despite being only 5’10” and 170 pounds, he lays it on the line for his team every night. His motor goes every shift, all the time. He plays all situations. He’s as physical as he can be for his size.. He shot blocks. He will even step in to defend a teammate where necessary despite his smaller stature as seen here.
Regardless of where he plays, Tyler Tullio will be a fan favorite and he will get the most out of every shift.
In terms of the skills he brings, what is most eye popping is his shot. Tullio scores and he does so in a lot of ways, but he does a lot of it from distance. He also does it with both his wrist shot and his slap shot. I wouldn’t suggest his release is special in terms of quickness or deceptiveness. What I believe makes his shot a challenge is that it is very hard and very accurate. He routinely takes OHL goalies by surprise with his shot.
Tullio also has excellent puck skills. Both his handling of the puck and his passing is at a plus level. The most impressive piece is his accuracy on passing the puck to teammates. I think this skill has a chance to really help him as a pro player. It should allow him to create more space for himself by getting the puck to a teammate in a good spot and then moving himself to a better spot for a return pass.Tullio will find, as all junior players do, that the speed of the pro game and the size of the pro player, shrink the ice considerably and using teammates is an important part of development.
Last, but very difficult to show in video, Tullio is a highly intelligent player. The fact that he can play all three forward positions suggests that is the case. He also plays in all situations including penalty kill and high leverage situations at the end of the game and overtime. He’s a very intuitive player that seems to be able to understand the flow of the game a half step before most players on the ice. Again, this is an excellent trait to have for a smaller player entering the pro game. It should help him see time and space to avoid getting checked by bigger, stronger and faster players.
What Made Tullio A 5th Round Pick?
It is important to note that the skills noted above are strong enough to make Tullio a NHL player. No question. What Tullio lacks is a combination of size and skating ability to emphasize his excellent puck skills. The odd part is that he’s not really small, he’s listed at 5’11” and 180 pounds, but he’s clearly smaller than that. He’s also not a poor skater either. It’s really just a combination of smaller stature and average skating that makes it a challenge for him.
In terms of technical assessment on his skating, his stride is a little short creating a lot of choppy strokes that waste energy and don’t give him a strong balanced position. This can be developed for certain. He can get a little too upright as well losing his knee flex, which costs him in terms of both power and balance. Also, something that can be improved over time. However, note in the same clip below his footwork and transitions. In these instances, his skating is quite quick. Again, his skating is not fatal, but needs work given the size he plays at to allow him more success against pro players.
In terms of his size on its own, it should not be an issue. He certainly can get stronger physically over time, but his hockey sense will likely allow Tullio to avoid difficult physical situations as a pro. This doesn’t mean he won’t get knocked around, but I don’t think it will happen as much as is speculated and he certainly won’t let it bother him. The only risk will be wearing down over time as all small players potentially can do.
What To Expect?
Tullio is going to be a fascinating prospect to watch this year in Bakersfield. The Condors forward group is incredibly deep especially at center and right wing. Tullio played center more than any other position in the OHL last year, but he has played RW with success as well. He has the hockey sense to play any forward position quite frankly and I suspect that Colin Chaulk will use him in a variety of roles this year given the Condors depth.
I don’t expect Tullio to see penalty kill time given the group ahead of him, but his time on the powerplay will be notable. For someone with his offensive skills, you want to see him get some time on 2PP and have success. Should he not be able to crack the top two PP units that will be a concern.
In terms of overall performance, Tullio will face some challenges given the depth of the lineup. However, he is an offensive player. It will be critical for his development to score at this level as a twenty year-old. His ticket to the NHL involves his offensive skills. Failing to post numbers will be a situation to monitor. For those interested, the top 20 AHL rookies last year averaged 0.69 pts/g. The top 20 rookie goal scorers averaged .35 goals per game. Now it should be noted that the average age of this top 20 rookie group in terms of points per game was more than a year older than Tullio will be when he starts his pro career.
So what should we expect from Tyler Tullio in his rookie season as a pro. We should expect him to make the Bakersfield Condors and he should be a top 9 contributor. A successful season will have Tullio playing C or RW on an outscoring line with him getting solid time on 2PP if his offensive skills are what they appear to be. In terms of scoring, a half a point per game with 15 to 20 of those points being goals would be an excellent result. Moreso, Tullio improving his skating and physical stature will go a long way towards a strong pro career debut.
As to what Tullio could be, I would simply post this excellent article from a decade ago from Bruce Peter of www.habseyeontheprize.com. It’s eerily similar to Tullio.