Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Former Maverick Makes NHL Debut

Last Tuesday, former Maverick hockey player Tyler Pitlick made his National Hockey League debut for the Edmonton Oilers when they played the Montreal Canadiens on the road. Pitlick has played in preseason games for the Oilers the past two seasons but has otherwise played for their top minor league affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League.
Pitlick with the Oilers
Pitlick came to Minnesota State as a true freshman from Centennial High School, where he was teammates with current Maverick defenseman Brett Stern. Today in college hockey, it is a rarity to see players come in and play as true freshman. Rather, young players play junior hockey against players typically between the ages of 16 to 21, which is the limit, as when players turn 21 years of age they are no longer eligible for juniors. It’s similar to redshirting freshman in college football to give them some practice to get up to the speed of the college game, but Pitlick was a particularly interesting true freshman as he was 17 when he came to Mankato.
In his lone season in a Maverick sweater, the Centerville, Minn. native and former Minnesota Mr. Hockey candidate looked poised to have a solid career here in Mankato. Pitlick collected 11 goals and eight assists in 38 games as a rookie, but then the NHL came knocking on his door. Projected to be a late first-round pick, Pitlick was eventually drafted as the first pick of the second round, 31st overall by the Edmonton Oilers.
Once drafted, Pitlick decided to forego his final years of NCAA eligibility and headed north to play for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League, a Canadian major junior league where the age restriction is the same as American junior leagues, but players are compensated. After spending a successful season in Medicine Hat, he moved on.
Pitlick spent what would have been his junior season at MSU as a rookie in the AHL for Oklahoma City. Playing in 62 games, he recorded 23 points and then had an impressive playoff campaign with seven points in 13 games.
Battling an injury early last season, Pitlick was limited to just 44 games, recording ten points.
This season he had played seven games for the Barons, tallying a goal and two assists before the Oilers called him up to play his first NHL game.
In his NHL debut, Pitlick recorded two shots on goal and three hits in 11:58 of ice time for Edmonton. On the road at Montreal, the Oilers came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Canadiens 4-3 for their second straight win. The former Maverick also played in Thursday night’s 4-1 loss against the Washington Capitals and on Saturday in a 5-4 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. He tallied his first NHL goal against the Coyotes in what was the first goal of the game. However, after being hip checked by Phoenix’s David Schlemko, Pitlick left the game injured and did not play in Sunday’s game at Los Angeles.
Pitlick isn’t the first Maverick to play in the NHL, however.
Calgary Flames forward Tim Jackman played for the Mavericks from 2000-2002, and was the first MSU hockey player to play in the NHL. Other Mavs who have made it to the big stage include former All-American Grant Stevenson, Steve Wagner, John Kalinski, and Travis Morin.
The most notable NHL players to come out of MSU are Ryan Carter, who won a Stanley Cup Championship with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, and David Backes, who is the captain of the St. Louis Blues and also played in the 2010 Winter Olympics for Team USA. Backes will also play for the US in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Maverick fans hope to see more go on to play in the NHL, and they might not have to wait long. Four current Mavericks are drafted to NHL teams in Teddy Blueger to Pittsburgh, Max Gaede to San Jose, Zach Stepan to Nashville, and Stephon Williams to the New York Islanders. Aside from these players, 2013 graduate Eriah Hayes is playing for San Jose’s top minor league affiliate the Worcester Sharks of the AHL.
We hope to see more of Pitlick this season with the Oilers and wish him the best of luck in his journey to being a full time NHL forward.

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