The forward, claimed off waivers on January 12, had a lot of power play time which raised his ice time, but it’s clear that he’s turned himself into a key forward under interim head coach Martin St. Louis.
Despite the centre of his line, Jake Evans, leaving the game in the second period, Pitlick continued getting a regular shift, and played the second shift in overtime and set up Ben Chiarot’s overtime winner.
Pitlick with the set up, and Ben Chiarot ends it with his second goal of the game! pic.twitter.com/bOmkOOuS3l— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 4, 2022
He also displayed his speed earlier in the game, picking up a loose puck, turning on the jets and driving the net for a scoring chance.
There were a lot of positive storylines in the Canadiens win. Nick Suzuki played what St. Louis called the best game he’s seen him play. Chiarot had a big game as the trade deadline approaches. Andrew Hammond kept the team in the game with several big saves throughout the game.
Pitlick is the kind of player who can thrive in this kind of environment. He’s getting a chance to play big minutes on the power play, and is getting middle-six (if not at times top-six) minutes. His four goals and six assists in 19 games with the Canadiens is almost a carbon copy of his six goals and five assists in 20 games with the Minnesota Wild.
The fact that his power play time and overtime ice time is rising shows that the coaching staff is liking what he is bringing. He can take this chance to establish himself in the NHL, solidifying a role for himself, as the team gets built around him. At only 24 years old, he’s young enough to grow into an NHL role, and grow alongside the team.
With all the talk about high draft picks, the Canadiens will need more than that to grow into a perennial contender. Players who have been drafted like Ryan Poehling, and Alexander Romanov are one part of that. So are prospects who are on their way into the professional ranks. Players like Pitlick represent the next tier — claimed off waivers, discarded in roles that didn’t necessarily fit, or simply caught in a numbers game and able to be developed into regulars.
It seems almost too on the nose, but Paul Byron is an example of what can be found in a smaller, speedy waiver pickup. While Pitlick is a different style of player and a long way from establishing himself in the same way, Thursday’s game is a prime example of what can he can bring.