On Friday, March 22, the Nashville Predators announced they have signed prospect Rem Pitlick to a two-year deal worth $925,000 per year. By signing his professional contract, he follows in the footsteps of his father, Lance, who played eight NHL seasons for the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers, and his cousin, Tyler, currently playing for the Dallas Stars. So, with this news, who is Pitlick, what are his skills and what does his future look like?
Who is Rem Pitlick
Pitlick is a 21-year-old (turns 22 on April 2) left-shot forward who just completed his junior season with the University of Minnesota. The Predators drafted him in the third round (76th overall) of the 2016 Entry Draft. They selected him out of the United States Hockey League’s (USHL) Muskegon Lumberjacks after he scored 46 goals and 89 points in 56 games, leading the league by 23 points. Prior to playing in the USHL, he played for the elite Shattuck St. Mary’s, a prep high school attended by Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Toews, among others.
Related: Rem Pitlick Draft Profile
After being drafted, Pitlick continued displaying his scoring ability in college, finishing his career with 47 goals and 108 points in 112 games for an excellent 0.96 point-per-game (P/G) average. As a freshman in 2016-17 he scored 32 points in 36 games, tying for 13th in the country among freshmen and for fifth on the Golden Gophers. He experienced a sophomore slump the following season with 31 points in 38 games to lead the team despite current Buffalo Sabres rookie Casey Mittelstadt being on the roster. This season, however, he emerged with 21 goals and 45 points in 38 games.
His 21 goals tied for seventh in the nation and led the team by seven, while his 45 points tied for sixth in the country and led Minnesota by four. He netted 10 power-play goals to tie for the NCAA lead, as did his three shorthanded markers. He also finished 13th in the country with a 1.18 P/G average and tied for 21st with 124 shots on goal. He added two goals and two assists in three Big Ten Tournament games.
All resulted in him being a nominee for the 2019 Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s top college hockey player. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Predators general manager David Poile pushed to sign Pitlick after his junior season rather than risk losing him after his senior campaign.
Related: Top 10 Hobey Baker Award Winners
What are Pitlick’s Skills?
The best way to describe him is that he’s a solid, all-around forward. He plays in all situations and generally succeeds in doing so as evident by his 10 power-play goals and three shorthanded tallies.
As a goal scorer, he possesses excellent hands that help him corral passes under pressure and an accurate shot that allowed him to regularly beat Big Ten netminders. This shot made him a threat to score from anywhere in the offensive zone, especially on the power play. He also became a consistent threat because he knows where to go on the ice to score goals: finding the soft spots in coverage and waiting for the pass to arrive before unleashing his shot.
As a playmaker, he has great vision and a knack for making the right pass in each situation. In one sequence against the Michigan Wolverines this season, he waited near the goal mouth on the left side of the goaltender. A pass from the point arrived, but no shot was available as Michigan’s goalie moved to the near post. So instead of shooting, Pitlick one-touched a pass through the blue paint to a teammate, who buried the puck.
As a penalty killer, Pitlick’s skating and hockey IQ stand out. At 5-foot-9 and 196 pounds, one might think he may not be the fastest or smoothest skater. That person would be wrong. In a Jan. 11 game against the University of Notre Dame, he displayed both. Down 4-1 with less than a minute to go in the game and on the power play, Notre Dame pulled its goaltender for a two-man advantage. Pitlick was responsible for covering the right point. In this sequence, he not only covered the point, but also defended against passes below the faceoff circles.
With Notre Dame possessing and cycling the puck, he got his stick on a cross-ice pass to the faceoff circle and created a turnover. The puck then deflected to the point where a Notre Dame player attempted a shot, only for Pitlick to once again get his stick on the puck. That play resulted in a teammate gaining possession and attempting to clear the zone. Pitlick recognized the gap between the blue line and the lone Notre Dame defender in the neutral zone, caught up with the puck, poked it around the opposing player and used his speed to create separation to score an empty-netter to seal the game.
So to recap, Pitlick is a skilled forward who succeeds in all situations in every zone. He is talented enough offensively to create scoring chances and capitalize on them at five-on-five and on the power play. Yet he is also intelligent and possesses the intangibles to be an effective penalty killer. And that doesn’t even include how he transitions the puck out of the defensive zone and into the offensive zone, or how he provides puck support. Simply put, he is a talented player who looks ready to turn professional.
What is Pitlick’s Future?
Pitlick’s contract doesn’t start until the 2019-20 season. This means he’ll likely sign an amateur tryout contract with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals for the remainder of 2018-19. Assuming that happens, he’ll finish out the rest of this season with the Admirals as the team attempts to get back into the Calder Cup Playoff race. Considering how poorly the Admirals have played this season, he should have a roster spot available to him from the start. It also means he will be in the Predators’ training camp in the fall and see preseason game action.
Looking ahead, the Predators will have roster openings for him in the coming seasons. After this season concludes, Wayne Simmonds, Brian Boyle, Cody McLeod and Zac Rinaldo are all unrestricted free agents (UFAs). Additionally, Rocco Grimaldi and Colton Sissons are both restricted free agents. Of those players, only Sissons is guaranteed to be re-signed, with Grimaldi as a possibility. After the 2019-20 season, Mikael Granlund, Craig Smith, Austin Watson, Frédérick Gaudreau and Miikka Salomäki are UFAs. There will be space for Pitlick, he just needs to seize it.
And it’s likely he’ll do just that. He has the speed, shot, vision, hands and intelligence to succeed in the NHL. He also has position flexibility as a natural center who has plenty of experience playing on the wing. I also think the fact that’s a left-shot forward bodes well for him given Nashville’s righty-heavy lineup. Right now he projects as a third-line forward who is used as a penalty killer, but has the upside of a top-six forward who plays in all situations.
One Last Note
Pitlick’s Golden Gopher teammate Tommy Novak, whom the Predators drafted in the third round (85th overall) in the 2015 Entry Draft, signed an amateur tryout contract with the Admirals. If he performs well on the tryout, it’s likely the organization will sign him to a professional contract.
Related: Predators’ History with College Free Agents
Furthermore, the Predators’ top defense prospect, Dante Fabbro, plays in the Hockey East Conference’s semifinals tonight with Boston University as the Terriers take on Northeastern University. If B.U. loses, their season ends, meaning a contract announcement with Fabbro could arrive as soon as Saturday. Stay tuned!
*All stats came from Elite Prospects