OKLAHOMA CITY, OK-
The Edmonton Oilers brass and coaching staff has made it clear that they’d like to get more physical both on the backend and in their forward ranks. In recent drafts, the Oilers have gone after size and grit with players like Travis Ewanyk
, Mitch Moroz, Greg Chase and Jujhar Khaira
. Tyler Pitlick
, taken 31st overall in 2010, fits that bill as well.
“I think every team needs guys that are going to hit,” said Pitlick. “If you’ve got a whole team that’s willing to hit, a lot of teams aren’t going to want to play against you so, it’s a big deal.”
After earning his first NHL call up, Pitlick has turned the corner in his development in his third professional season.
“I think he’s right there,” said Oklahoma City Barons Coach Todd Nelson. “I think he’s a guy that’s knocking on the door to be a full-time NHLer. Right now we just have to keep him at this high level so if he’s called upon, he goes up there and succeeds and plays well for the Oilers.”
With time winding down in Friday night’s Barons game, Pitlick unleashed a great slap shot on the Rochester net and scored to draw the team within one. The 22-year-old forward has 10 points (3-7-10) in 21 games this season with the Barons. Watching his game that night, Pitlick is a fast skater and plays a heavy game. On one shift in particular, Pitlick braced himself for a hit and the opposing player bounced right off the 6-foot-2, 193 pound Oilers prospect.
“He’s a strong guy, he has great speed and he has some skill, but he has to play a straight-lined game up and down his wing, being physical in the corners, finishing his checks, shooting the puck and keeping things simple,” Nelson explained. “When he’s hitting people and he’s shooting the puck, he’s at his best. He’s always got pretty good wheels out there, he understands the game. Once again, it’s just a matter of being consistent.”
|Photo by Getty Images |
Consistency is something Pitlick has been working on since coming back from his knee injury suffered in his third NHL game, this season. The injury happened right after Pitlick scored his first NHL goal. It’s been quite a ride for Pitlick this season.
“I got my first call up, my first goal and then I got injured so it kind of went down from there,” Pitlick said. “I had a good recovery. I thought it went well and I’m back playing now. I had a few ups and downs but I think I’m getting back to where I was when I got hurt.”
His focus is zeroed in on a return to the NHL and he understands what he needs to work on to do it.
“I think I just got to keep doing what I’m doing and consistently playing hard every night, being physical, being hard to play against and just doing little things like getting pucks out and getting pucks in. Just little things that guys up there do every game.”
If the Oilers want to add that physicality to their lineup, they don’t have to look very far to get a hard-hitting, fast playing young forward.
“It’s what I like to do so if that’s what they want, I’m more than willing.”