FUTURE WATCH
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Future Watch: Tyler Pitlick

20-year-old centre has had a strong start to his pro career with the OKC Barons

Thursday, 01.12.2011 / 8:00 PM / Future Watch
By Ryan Dittrick  - edmontonoilers.com
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Future Watch: Tyler Pitlick
Tyler Pitlick has recorded 4 goals and 3 assists in 19 games this season with the AHL's OKC Barons (Photo by Steven Christy).
Tyler Pitlick has approached the 2011-12 season like any other: with a calm, cool and collected attitude, engaged and ever-determined to capture bigger things and reach hockey's grandest stage in Oil Country.

It says something about a player's mindset when he's able to slot into another new lineup, conquer a rookie's challenges and take it all in stride as he accomplishes immediate success; as a pro, no less, at 20 years of age.

In 2009-10, he starred as a vigorous two-way centre, notching 11 goals and 19 points in 38 games with WCHA's Minnesota State Mankato.

A season later, he blossomed into something more with the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers, scoring 27 goals and 62 points in 56 regular-season contests.

Now, 19 games into his professional career with the Oklahoma City Barons, Pitlick continues his upward development path, potting four goals and seven points, along with a respectable -6 rating in his rookie campaign.

"It's been pretty good, I think," Pitlick said of his minor-big league transition. "It took me a little bit to soak it all in, feel good and start to think the game like a pro. I'm doing pretty good, starting to get more points; but that's only part of it, because I need to make sure I'm making smart plays in my own end and doing all the little things right."

"Overall, it's going really well and I'm excited to see where I'll end up and how I'm able to progress as a pro this year."

Three leagues in as many seasons can certainly test a player's mettle, but it also may have helped propel the youngster's skill to even more impressive level. Learning new systems, playing alongside other, equally as driven talent and honing the game's nuances in each has been the best preparation of all.

When Pitlick arrived in Medicine Hat, he noted the league's devoted physical approach as being more than a simple subtlety. It's a good thing, too, because the NHL's rough-and-tumble calling card is distantly removed from the college (and WHL) atmosphere.

"College was pretty physical, but I don't think it really compares to this level," Pitlick explained. "It was a step up for me last season in Medicine Hat, and I think I handled it well. It's been another step up here in OKC, but I think I've done well adapting to this, too.

"That's one area, but there are a lot of other things I've had to work on as well."

Surrounded by quality veterans and likeminded teammates, Pitlick has centered Ryan O'Marra (recalled to the Oilers on Nov. 29) and Hunter Tremblay this season. Tanner House has since replaced O'Marra in that role, but under a veteran's guidance and fellow rookie's push, he's been able to glide into the AHL with ease.

"Everyone's a little faster and a little stronger," said the 6'2", 195-pound pivot. "Everyone wants to make it to the next level, so everyone gives it everything they've got every single night. It's a really good league.

"You don't have as much time out there, either. You have to be quick with your decisions, because someone's always on you when you want to shoot or make a pass; and, really, that's something I had to learn to deal with last season in the WHL as well. It's tough, but you get better with more experience."

Seen as an integral block in the Oilers' rebuilding plans, Pitlick was selected 31st overall in 2010 as the orange and blue looked to get bigger, meaner and more skilled down the middle. He's already accomplished big things by turning pro so quick, in addition to strong pre-season showings in 2010 and 2011.

The precursor to that, of course, was September's Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, BC, where Pitlick notched a goal and a +1 rating in games vs. Calgary and Winnipeg.

"In my exit meeting [with Head Coach Tom Renney and the Oilers], they told me to come down here and not worry about anything else that's going on; play my best and do as well as I can. I think they're pretty happy with me so far.

"I think that's had a big impact on my development," Pitlick added about the Oilers and Barons' coaches. "The support has been great, and the constant feedback about my game is even better."

Whether it's via the nurturing veteran presence of teammates like Bryan Helmer, the Barons' poetic captain, or through an understanding, welcoming approach by Head Coach Todd Nelson, Pitlick feels right at home (where the heart is) in Oklahoma City.

"That's huge," said the Centerville, Minnesota product. "If you're ever wondering how you're doing or if you want some pointers on the pro game, they're always there to help. Helmer's such a good locker room guy, and Todd is a great coach and an even better guy; he knows the game so well and he's really taken a lot of time with me, one-on-one to go over video and things like that.

"He's so approachable and he has such a grasp with on-ice tactics and system-play," Pitlick added about Nelson's coaching style. "It's not only helping me become a better player, but it's helping our team succeed as well."

And the results have vehemently backed that claim. The Barons have posted a dominant 15-5-0-1 record through 21 games, sitting atop the AHL's Western Division standings.

With the start they've had, soaring potential and a rookie's staunch determination in tow, there's no limit to Pitlick and the Barons' season-long quest.

"Once I better round out my game, the points will start to come more regularly. Ultimately my goal is to play well every night and get my game to where it needs to be so I can reach the next level.

"That's everyone's goal."

-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick


Forwards


Name age GP G A P +/- PIM team
Cameron Abney   20 14 1 2 3  0 69 Stockton Thunder (ECHL)
Mark Arcobello   23 20 2 11 13 +7 6 Oklahoma City Barons (AHL)
Alexander Bumagin   24 20 2 5 7   2 4 Novokuznetsk Metallurg
Philippe Cornet   21 20 15 3 18 +7 9 oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Drew Czerwonka   19 16 8 9 17 +12 13 Kootenay ice (WHL)
Travis Ewanyk   18 - - - - - - edmonton oil kings (WHL)
Josh Green   33 11 5 7 12 +6 2 oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Curtis Hamilton   19 15 1 5 6  +1 2 oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Teemu Hartikainen   21 19 8 5 13  +1 8 oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Tanner House   25 18 1 5 6 +5 11 oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Kellen Jones   21 16 5 9 14  0 16 quinnipiac university
Ryan Keller   27 21 6 11 17 +10 14 oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Milan Kytnar   22 2 0 0 0 -1 0 oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Ryan Martindale   20 17 1 5 6 -4 0 stockton thunder (ECHL)
Linus Omark   24 7 1 6 7 +2 4 oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Ryan O'Marra   24 20 4 4 8 +5 40 oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Kristians Pelss   19 26 11 5 16 +13 34 edmonton oil kings (WHL)
Tyler Pitlick   19 19 4 3 7 -6 22 oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Toni Rajala   20 22 8 5 13 -3 8 ilves tampere (sm-liiga)
Liam Reddox   25 25 6 8 14 -9 14 vaxjo hc (SEL)
Tobias Rieder   18 25 20 14 34 +11 8 kitchener rangers (OHL)
Hunter Tremblay   25 20 4 4 8  0 15 oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Antti Tyrvainen   22 7 0 1 1 +4 2 oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Chris VandeVelde   24 21 2 4 6 -1 6 oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Defencemen
Name age GP G A P +/- PIM team
Kyle Bigos   22 10 1 5 6 0 39 merrimack college
Jeremie Blain   19 20 5 13 18 +5 42 acadie-bathurst titan (QMjhl)
Taylor Chorney   19 7 0 3 3  0 2 OKLAHOMA CITY BARONS (AHL)
Brandon Davidson   20 26 6 16 22 +7 33 regina pats (wHL)
Martin Gernat   18 27 6 16 22 +15 20 edmonton oil kings (WHL)
Oscar Klefbom   18 15 0 0 0   0 0 farjestads bk karlstad (SEL)
Martin Marincin   19 22 2 9 11 +2 21 prince george cougars (WHL)
Johan Motin   22 5 0 0 0  +3 0 Timra ik (seL)
David Musil   18 29 1 13 14 +9 65 vancouver giants (WHL)
Jeff Petry   23 2 0 1 1 +1 2 oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Alex Plante   22 19 0 7 7 +13 52 oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Dillon Simpson   18 14 0 5 5 0 2 u. of north dakota
Colten Teubert   21 13 2 3 5 +3 27 oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Goalies
Name age GP w l T GAA SV% team
Tyler Bunz   19 25 15 7 3 2.50 .923 medicine hat tigers (WHL)
Yann Danis   30 14 10 4 0 2.44 .922 oklahoma city barons (AHL)
Samu Perhonen   18 - - - - - - Jyp ht jyvaskyla (sm-liiga)
Olivier Roy   20 10 3 4 3 2.44 .921 stockton thunder (echl)
Frans Tuohimaa   20 10 5 4 4 2.65 .897 jokerit helsinki (sm-liiga)
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