by Lisa McRitchie on 02/17/12 at 03:00 AM ET
After all of the debate and the back and forth between fans going into the 2010 NHL entry draft, the Oilers ended up with both Taylor and Tyler. Of course Tyler Pitlick selected 31st was not Tyler Seguin, but the young centreman was not supposed to be available in the second round and the Oilers were fortunate to select him.
Like Curtis Hamilton, Pitlick is in his first professional season, and things have not gone as expected by either the Oilers or the young players.
Pitlick had a few injuries in his one season with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL. Pitlick had a lower body injury that kept him out of a portion of the mid-season, and an ankle injury that kept him out of the Tiger’s playoff games. This season, Pitlick has had lower body issues once again.
“It’s been kind of a slow start for me. I’ve had a few injuries that have kept me out.” Said Pitlick of his season up to this point. He had only played 34 games out of 49 but that is nothing compared to the number of games that Linus Omark missed with his ankle injury.
When I spoke to Pitlick following the Barons vs Heat game in Calgary, Pitlick was a scratch. “I just started feeling better and I actually feel really good right now.” Pitlick explained, “I’m just waiting for my chance to get back in the lineup right now, and for my opportunity to turn things around.
“I’ve had a few… it’s something like a Charlie Horse. It’s really weird; I’ve never had anything like it. My leg got really stiff and I couldn’t’ really walk very well but it’s starting to get better, and I’m feeling good.”
It hasn’t just been injuries holding Pitlick back because there are a lot of differences between junior and professional hockey. “It’s definitely an adjustment” Pitlick admitted. “I’m now playing against bigger and stronger guys and it’s just normal. All of the guys are really good and I just have to find my confidence again and get back to doing the things that I know how to do. I just have to find my confidence and I think that things will start going my way. I think that the speed is a little bit faster and that everyone is good. They’re in their spot, they’re always on time, and it’s just a little bit harder that way I guess.”
Pitlick has been playing both at centre and wing in the WHL and now in the AHL, but the majority of his games have been on the wing, and Pitlick doesn’t think that that is any indication that that is where he will remain. “I think that it’s more that we have a lot of good centremen here, a lot of older guys that are really strong in the d-zone and I think that they want to have me on the wing where I have a little bit less defencive responsibility and just focus on offence until I get a feel for the league. I mean we’ve got Josh Green, Ryan O’Marra and a bunch of guys that have been in the league for a while. I’ve just got to wait and maybe I’ll get some chances at centre.”
With Thursday’s trade of Ryan O’Marra, this just may be the opening that Pitlick needed to get back to centre.
In all of my previous discussions with Pitlick, he always told me that he didn’t care what position he plays, he just wants to be playing. And so, Pitlick could only smile when I had to ask him, once again whether or not he has a preference. “I just want to be in the lineup and I kind of like playing the wing.” He said with a laugh.
“I get to overload and use my speed to skate in to chip pucks and I get to be first in on the forecheck a lot more but I would like to be able to play some centre and be able to help in the defensive zone and help move the puck up. But, I don’t mind playing on the wing. I like it a little bit actually, but we’ll have to see what happens.”
While Pitlick has had experiences in both the WHL and the NCAA, he thought that he was preparing for the AHL. When it came down to it though, Pitlick very abruptly admitted that he didn’t know what to expect in his first professional season. “It’s an unbelievable league, of course it is. It’s all of the guys who are all trying to make it in the NHL. I thought that I was going to do a little better points wise, but I think it’s just getting a feel for it and things are going to come.”
Of course Pitlick is putting up some points, 4 goals and 6 assists, but “Maybe I’m getting the third assists” Pitlick says with just a slight touch of hopefulness.
Because both Hamilton and Pitlick have had slow years, it begs the question whether or not most players in the WHL can really appreciate what is in store for them when they take the next step. “I think that they’re used to going to the games expecting to score some goals and dominate, but its different here. You’ve got to play your role, you’ve got to try to play physical or whatever you need to do to stay in the lineup. You’ve just got to do what the team wants you to do and hopefully the rest of the stuff comes as well.” Pitlick explained.
Just as with Hamilton, the Oilers will have patience with Pitlick. The Barons have been playing well as a team, and the rookies have been seeing and experiencing what it takes to win at a higher level.
Pitlick may not see it, but he has adjusted well to the AHL. He seems more at ease talking about his game and development and while he may be searching for his confidence, the coaching staff in Oklahoma City are doing what they can to help him find it.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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