It’s time for our annual countdown of the best 25 Nashville Predators players under 25 years old!
This is not only a tradition here at OTF, but is also something that you might see at many other SBNation NHL blogs. The premise is simple: rank the 25 best players who have not yet reached their 25th birthday (as of August 1st, 2017).
To begin, we start with American center prospect Rem Pitlick.
Pitlick was drafted 76th overall, in the third round, of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft from the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL. There he led the league in nearly every offensive category and won USHL Player of the Year. He spent the 2016-17 season completing his freshman year at the University of Minnesota alongside fellow Preds’ prospect, Tom Novak.
At Minnesota, he didn’t skip a beat.
Pitlick scored at nearly a point per game clip and was rewarded by being named to the NCAA Big Ten All-Rookie Team. He was fifth on the team in points as a freshman while only take 85 shots all season—20 less then the 4th leading scorer, Leon Bristedt. His 16.5% shooting percentage on the season led most of his teammates even though NCAA hockey is often conducive to higher marks like that.
Though he was initially going to stay in the USHL until 2017-18, he should see another strong bump in his production during his sophomore season. He has played center and right wing while getting acclimated to the NCAA and is third in points scored among Minnesota’s returning forward group.
Pitlick has described his developmental path as that of “a late bloomer.” He said to the Star Tribune in 2016: “I’m getting a little bit bigger and more on a level playing field with everyone else in terms of size...I think college, I have four years when I get there, versus if I went major junior or something like that.”
He turned 20 in April and is now listed at 5’9”, 196 pounds—a two inch, 25 pound growth since the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign. Back in 2016, Pitlick was invited to the U.S. World Junior Team training camp and got a better taste of playing with the most elite talents in the country. As an over-age player, Pitlick was not eligible to return to the camp this summer.
The scouting report on Pitlick’s game is as follows:
“Pitlick has elite speed, is terrific on puck pursuit and has exceptional acceleration. He’s a relentless forechecker and is resonsible in his own [zone], getting sticks in lanes. He’s got a quick release and an accurate shot.” - Jeff Cox at SBNCollegeHockey.com
Below are highlights from Minnesota’s victory of Team USA on October 14th where Pitlick, #15, scored a hat-trick. On his second and third goals, the accuracy of his shot and his quick release are on full display. His time at Minnesota, so far, has proven his ability to quickly find shooting lanes and deceive goalies with his unique release.
Pitlick carries a strong sense of awareness in the offensive zone. He has quick skating ability to carry the play and the hockey sense to adjust and trail the play, as seen below scoring the game-winning goal against Penn State.
It’s not crazy to suggest that Pitlick could play all four years at Minnesota. Regardless of when the Predators would like to sign him out of school, I think we can expect at least two more seasons in college depending on his production. Although his frame is small, Pitlick’s skating ability will help propel him into the AHL and, hopefully, the NHL one day. It’s too early to predict any arrival in Nashville, but his sophomore season should be an electric one to watch.