It started with Benoit Pouliot missing Monday’s pre-season game due to illness and ended with Tyler Pitlick — Pouliot’s last minute replacement — potting a goal and an assist in a 4-2 Oilers victory over the Calgary Flames. Pitlick was named the game’s first star and showed signs of the Pitlick the Edmonton Oilers drafted in 2010 at #31 overall.
Long Overdue Success
It’s only one preseason game, but if Pitlick plays the next few games the way he played on Monday, he’ll get more opportunities. If he takes advantage of those opportunities, he’s in line to see game action in the NHL regular season. If he can continue to produce, he’ll keep employment, which prior to this season has been a real question mark for the power-forward.
— Paul Almeida (@AzorcanGlobal) September 27, 2016
It’s not to say Pitlick’s playing style isn’t exactly the type of style the Oilers are eager to include as part of their roster. His speed, skill, drive, tenacity and effort-level have kept him a part of the Oilers system for seven seasons and Pitlick oozes the type of prospect characteristics every NHL franchise might want. He’s feisty, likes to hit and he gives you his maximum effort every time he hits the ice. The problem is, Pitlick has terrible luck.
This overdue opportunity isn’t because the Oilers owe Pitlick anything. Frankly, Pitlick is lucky to have received his third consecutive one-year contract this summer. Any close examination of Pitlick’s career accolades will be emphasized by a similar but unfortunate statistic — very few games played. Since the 2012-13, 39 games is the most he’s played in a single season. His tenures in the AHL and the NHL are a similar storyline of injury after injury and it seems as though each and every time Pitlick’s gained any momentum, his inability to stay healthy has derailed it.
To say Pitlick’s success is overdue is only because he’s been so unfortunate. Fans, management, and coaches would like to see what Pitlick can offer with a real NHL sample size on his resume.
Best Player on the Ice
While Kris Versteeg showed well with a pretty back-handed goal and Oscar Klefbom played over 22-minutes, Pitlick was the best player on the ice. In fact, of the two simultaneous split-squad games taking place on Monday (the Oilers second squad was playing in Calgary), Pitlick was arguably the best player on either team in either game. He couldn’t have written a better beginning to the start of a season that is critical to his future.
That said, one game won’t be enough to guarantee Pitlick a spot with the Oilers. At best, he may have earned himself another opportunity in a preseason game that was originally slotted for someone else. After all, as of only a few hours before game day on Monday, Pitlick wasn’t even scheduled to play.
For now, any opportunity is an opportunity Pitlick should relish. All opportunities are opportunities he should plan to make the most of. Most importantly, if given another opportunity, he and a lot of others in hockey are hoping it won’t end in an injury that has so often complicated his opportunities in the past.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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