Photo Credit: Michael Caples/MiHockey
Today we profile 19-year-old Rem Pitlick of the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL, a high-scoring over-ager that is expected to be drafted very late in the 2016 draft. His father, Lance Pitlick, had a moderate career in the NHL as a defenseman through the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Every year there’s a few undrafted over-agers that put up impressive enough numbers in their junior/Euro leagues to warrant a late round selection after their draft-eligible year. Last year we saw Connor Garland and Andrew Mangiapane do just this and go in the fifth (by Arizona) and sixth rounds (by Calgary), respectively. Some other notable over-agers that were drafted later than their true draft year and went on to very successful NHL careers include: Ondrej Palat, Paul Stastny, Johan Franzen, Mike Cammalleri, Pavel Datsyuk, Zach Parise, Brett Hull and Hakan Loob.
Pitlick was born April 12, 1997 and turned 19 just after the completion of the 2015-16 regular season. He stands 5’9” and 194 pounds. He led the entire USHL in scoring by a wide-margin (leading second place by 35%), registering 89 points (46 goals and 43 assists) in 56 games (NHLE of 35).
Comparing this year to his draft year, the point production lift was very significant (Pitlick only registered 16 points in 47 games (NHLE of seven) with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL in 2014-15). Perhaps he was being under-utilized by the Black Hawks and has found a better opportunity with the Lumberjacks. Or perhaps he just put it all together and figured out how to produce. Either way, it’s a huge leap. As well, Pitlick was roughly two inches shorter and 25 pounds lighter last year. Not surprising he wasn’t picked in his draft year.
However, now he has a 30+ NHLE (I’ll get into why that’s important later) and instead of being the size of an 18-year-old Johnny Gaudreau or Nathan Gerbe like he was in his draft year, he now registers closer to a player like Mike Cammalleri, Marc Savard, Jiri Hudler and Brendan Gallagher… small but marginally below average size. With the weight gain, Pitlick has also become much faster and now is said to have NHL speed.
The Hockey Writers have a good breakdown on Pitlick.
“Pitlick took gigantic strides this season, advancing from a bottom-six forward on his USHL team and going undrafted last season to being the league’s top goal scorer and point producer. He’s a pretty good skater who has a strong first step and top gear. Pitlick displays a solid north-south game as he barrels down with energy and attacks the goal, despite being an undersized forward. Stickhandling is solid for Pitlick, and he also has a very good shot, which helped him to clear the 40-goal mark this season. His size is an issue, as is his lack of top-end playmaking ability.” – Corey Pronman, ESPN
“He’s our MVP, not because he has the most points, but because he brings it every game. He would go on to add observations as to why the forward has enjoyed so much success this year. His confidence, and him having fun night in night out. He loves to play and is showing it.” – John Vanbiesbrouck, GM, Muskegon Lumberjacks
What I’ve been able to decipher is he has speed for days, shoots a ton and is incredibly accurate and has excellent vision and stickhandling ability.
Goals: 46 (1st)
1A: 27 (4th)
2A: 16 (5th)
Points: 89 (1st)
PPG: 1.59 (1st)
Primary PPG: 1.30 (5th)
Age Adjusted PPG: 1.32 (3rd)
Shooting Percentage: 26.6 (2nd)
ES/PP Point Split: 56%
% of Team Scoring: 47%
Team Scoring: 1st (Led by 28)
Pitlick destroyed the USHL this year and led in nearly every category. His shooting percentage is slightly concerning, but he also shoots a lot (173 shots over the year) and is one of the leaders there as well. Yes he’s an over-ager, but only just slightly, and his production this year puts him in very good company.
Here’s a list of drafted players that registered a NHLE of 29 or less in their draft year and recorded a 30+ NHLE in their D+1 year, and did so before turning 19 (April to August born). This is a sample of 380 players from 2003 to 2014 which includes everyone who made the NHL and played 100 games, as well as a sample of 124 busts (players that failed to play at least 100+ NHL games five years after being drafted).
Few players that hit a 30+ NHLE before 19 do not make the NHL. If we look at ones that hit a 30+ NHLE in their D+1 year and not in their draft year and were born in the spring and summer, the success rate is incredible. In the sample I’ve collected, there doesn’t appear to be a bust in this group in at least the past 10 years. (Note: Mangiapane also finds himself in this group as well as he was born in April).
Pitlick is essentially a completely different player from his draft year. In his draft year he was an unimpressive extremely small player; today he’s hovering around average size, good weight, increased speed and figured out how to score and produce. Add to that, his father played at six feet and 200 pounds… he may not be done growing.
There are no guarantees in this sport but when you’re staring at the wasteland of poor to mediocre prospects that are left by the fifth and sixth rounds, Pitlick is the type of player that surprises and makes it to the highest level more often than not.
Previous draft targets: Alexander Nylander | Pierre-Luc Dubois | Matthew Tkachuk | Jakob Chychrun | Olli Juolevi | Clayton Keller | Alex DeBrincat | Sam Steel | Vitalii Abramov | Jake Bean | Tyson Jost | Mikhail Sergachev | Tyler Benson | Griffin Luce | Logan Brown | Samuel Girard | Will Bitten | Cliff Pu | Taylor Raddysh | Adam Mascherin | Carter Hart | Jordan Kyrou | Cam Morrison | Cam Dineen | Matthew Phillips | Carsen Twarynski | Sean Day | Tage Thompson | Frederic Allard