Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Time for Pitlick to sink or swim

It wasn’t supposed to go like this for Tyler Pitlick and the Edmonton Oilers. 

When the organization decided to use the first pick of the second round at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft on the former Medicine Hat Tigers standout, the hope was he would eventually develop into a solid top six forward and be a very important piece of the puzzle moving forward. 

Unfortunately for both the player and club, all that potential has been washed away over the past four years and as of right now, Pitlick remains on the outside looking in as a restricted free agent...though he was issued a qualifying offer back on June 30th . 

While we heard his name in a couple of trade rumors last summer, most notably as part of what eventually became the Shawn Horcoff to Dallas deal and as a possible piece to help acquire former Minnesota Wild winger Cal Clutterbuck, he remained with the organization through the 2013-14 campaign and actually ended up making his National Hockey League debut after two plus years with the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League. 

To his credit, Pitlick looked very good in his first couple of games in Oilers silks but as has been the case for much of his pro career, the injury bug reared its ugly head in game number three. Ironically enough, he was hurt mere moments after scoring the first goal of his NHL career in the first period against the Phoenix Coyotes. In his first seven periods as an Oiler, the kid may not have been the guy they hoped they drafted back in 2010, he certainly brought a dimension to Edmonton’s bottom six that fans have not seen in some time. 

His skill, size and willingness to engage physically, as well as using his speed to get in on the forecheck and be an absolute puck hound all over the rink, made him exactly what this team needed. Problem being, after hurting his knee in the Desert back on October 26th, he was never the same player...be it in OKC or during his second call-up in late-March/early-April with the big club. 

With his inconsistencies to produce points at the AHL level being what they have been, (145-GP, 18-G, 37-A, 55-Pts), and the injuries continuing to pile up, one can’t help but look at the soon-to-be twenty-three year old as a second round bust. That said, he will likely be given another chance to prove his worth this September and if he can stay healthy long enough to earn a spot in Edmonton, Pitlick could bring an end to that sort of talk in a real hurry. At this stage of the game, he is never going to reach the potential that many saw in him on the fateful day in Los Angeles but there is absolutely no reason he cannot morph into a solid bottom six forward and be a solid National Hockey League player for years to come. 

The opportunity to grab a regular spot on the fourth line with Matt Hendricks and one of Mark Arcobello, Boyd Gordon or Anton Lander is there for taking. Now it is up to Tyler Pitlick to go out and take it. 

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