Pitlick competed in his first professional season in 2019-20 for the Milwaukee Admirals after three seasons at the University of Minnesota, where he finished with 108 points in 112 collegiate games.
By The Numbers
After a junior NCAA season where he led Minnesota in scoring, tied for eighth in the nation in goals (21), and finished tenth in points (45), I anticipated a breakout AHL season from Pitlick. He delivered, becoming the first Admiral rookie in five years to score 20 goals and finishing tied for fifth on the team in points (36).
In ten games tracked from last year, Pitlick finished fifth among Milwaukee forwards with a 56.45% Corsi rating (really he was fourth, as my sample size for Colin Blackwell wasn’t large enough). The 67.65 Corsi For attempts per 60 minutes while he was on the ice at even strength was second among forwards.
Pitlick was also one of Milwaukee’s better transition forwards at five-on-five play. He exited the defensive zone with possession 70.83% of the time and entered the offensive zone with control 51.85% of the time.
As a smaller sized center in his first AHL season, Pitlick impressed with positive play-driving numbers against top-six competition.
The Scouting Tape
Concerns about Pitlick’s (#16, blue) size against professional competition were quickly dismissed as last season got going. He was consistently able to find open time and space, utilize his shooting arsenal, and convert on chances in high-danger areas, as you see in the clip below.
He may not appear as dynamic in attacking the puck on this shift, but Pitlick is constantly shuffling his feet to maintain distance to any Iowa defender. On top of that, he’s able to snap the puck off his blade quickly and (mostly) accurately on his passing and scoring attempts.
One underrated aspect of Pitlick’s game is his puck support. In my viewings, I found him regularly in a good spot to jump on a turnover, and he can turn play up ice quickly, as you see above. Pitlick excels here at puck protection with two Chicago players hounding him, and his patience converts into a primary assist.
This clip shows how elastic Pitlick can be in an offensive cycle. Too often, forwards move one direction along the boards, but Pitlick helps stretch the defense with his stop-and-start play in both directions. Again, his puck protection pays off, and he’s able to get into a high-danger spot for a quick scoring chance.
I anticipated much of Pitlick’s production would come on the power play where Milwaukee was wise to use his excellent shooting ability. Whether in tight or having space from a distance, Pitlick is able to beat goalies with his hard, accurate release.
One improvement I’d like to see in year two from Pitlick is his dynamism without the puck. He’s got the foot speed to jump into a puck battle from a glide and still come away with possession, but with more consistency in his top speed, he’ll create more space from opponents. Regardless, I like the poise he skates with in transition (although I’d like to see his head up more), and his puck support positioning subtly helps pucks out of the defensive zone on successful shifts.
Pitlick’s contract comes with a cap hit and base NHL salary of $874,125 and an AHL salary of $70,000. Still exempt from waivers, Pitlick will be a restricted free agent again next summer upon expiry of this deal.