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2019 Montreal Canadiens Top 25 Under 25: #23 Rhett Pitlick

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Pitlick earns a spot in the Top 25, ahead of a few 2019 prospects who were drafted ahead of him.

NHL: JUN 28 Montreal Canadiens Development Camp Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In his first year in the organization, Rhett Pitlick, a 2019 selection of the Montreal Canadiens, was able to crack the Top 25. He’s an intriguing prospect who has a lot of potential and raw skill that needs to be polished.

The Habs were lucky enough to be able to draft Pitlick in the fifth round, considering scouting outlets had him as high as #43, with most projections placing him from the second round to late third.

At this year’s draft, the Habs targeted players who could play with pace. They picked athletes who were quick, have great vision, and can impact the game in different ways. The idea was to focus on a few tools that really stood out from the pack, and Pitlick possesses a few of those.

EliteProspects

He is a dominant skater. He has great strides and can play an up-tempo game. He carves his way up and down the ice with crossovers, looking for an opening to get in the offensive zone. He uses his speed to get ahead of the play, making sure he dictates the flow.

However, it’s not enough just to be a great skater to play in the modern NHL; you also have to be a quick thinker. Fortunately for the Habs, that is one of Pitlick’s strengths. His ability to find outlets under pressure is exceptional. He has a knack for visualizing the ice and the play developing in front of him. He understands where and when to pick his spots.

He isn’t one of those high-school players who thrived on slowing the game down and abusing the space. He challenges opposing defence, looking to create space for his teammates and get them the puck. At the same time, he loves having the puck on his stick and can create multiple scoring chances on a single shift because of his good movement and puck control.

Voting

Regarding the vote for Rhett Pitlick, most writers had different opinions on him. Justin had him at 17 while the lowest vote was 35. I believe the vote on him was really spread due to the fact people haven’t had much time to read up about him and watch a few clips. I ranked him 24, one spot lower than his actual ranking. I believe if he keeps his play up, he could easily rise through the ranks as his game becomes more polished. He has the potential and the tools to do so.

Justin: There were several things about Pitlick that grabbed attention after his selection. Hockey Prospect had him at #43 on their draft list with high grades, and a statistical analysis of draft-year performance identified him as a valuable player. At development camp, we had a chance to see all of that potential in action versus some highly regarded prospects and he more than held his own, impressing whenever he got a chance to handle the puck.

He obviously has the speed and appears to have the offensive talent to take advantage of the space he earns, and those abilities don’t often come in the same package. Therefore, I see Pitlick as one of the top young prospects in the pool.

Strengths

Pitlick has been practicing his shot a lot. He’s been mentored by his father, former NHL defenceman Lance Pitlick. The forward has been working on getting his release even more accurate and powerful, focusing on his wrister to add layers of deception and trickiness to it.

He attacks the opposing defence straight on when he finds the open lane to do so, but can make them move by skating in an arc, only to drop the puck to teammates or chip it behind the defence after displacing them. He’s a puck-hounder, chasing the puck and keeping up with the play as much as possible. Despite his smaller stature, he’s very involved in the game.

Fifth-rounder debuts

Player Draft year (#) T25U25 Debut
Player Draft year (#) T25U25 Debut
Daniel Audette 2014 (147) 20
Rhett Pitlick 2019 (131) 23
Brendan Gallagher 2010 (147) 24
Charles Hudon 2012 (122) 28
Matthew Bradley 2015 (131) 31
Jarret Tyszka 2017 (149) 34
Cole Fonstad 2018 (128) 36
Casey Staum 2016 (124) 37
Samuel Houde 2018 (133) 40
Jacob LeGuerrier 2019 (126) 40
Frederik Nissen Dichow 2019 (138) 42
Darren Dietz 2011 (138) NR

Due to his style of game — his quick feet and general speed of execution — he didn’t have a problem adjusting to the USHL level in his short stint there this season. He played seven games for the Omaha Lancers and registered five points for them. While there, he showed that he could also have an effective game around the net, circling the slot and jumping on loose pucks. Although he was in a sheltered role, like many high-schoolers who play in the American Junior League at the end of their season, he still made an impact with the minutes he got.

Weaknesses

His biggest challenge will be adapting and developing a style around his smaller build. At 5’9”, Pitlick needs to maximize his positioning and his hockey IQ. Adding muscle and strengthening his edgework would allow him to put more pressure when attacking or defending.

Despite his very intense style of play, Pitlick could become a more cerebral player. He would gain a lot by getting better at reading plays, and acting on those would go a long way into making him an even bigger two-way threat.

One of the ways to help a young player reach his NHL potential is by developing multiple offensive and defensive tools. Becoming a multi-dimensional threat would certainly add to his chances on making it to the big show. The fact that he’s working on his vision, shot, and mental strength is an excellent step toward making Pitlick into an impactful player.

Projection

Overall, his performance is a good sign when projecting him to the NCAA. He is committed to the University of Minnesota, and will gain more experience in Junior hockey before starting his college career. He will rejoin the Omaha Lancers in the USHL — at least for stretches of games if he returns for his final year of high school — in 2019-20, and should be one of their main offensive weapons.

We have to keep in mind that Pitlick is still a long-term project. I feel that he needs three to four years to develop his game before taking it to the pro ranks. Still, due to his high potential, he could very well end up surprising a lot of people, and I wouldn’t bet against him doing so.

If everything falls right, we could easily see him on a third or fourth line in the NHL.