OKC Barons: Tyler Pitlick has grown as a hockey player and contributed to team's success
Barons coach Todd Nelson said the rookie forward is a much better player than when the season started in October. Barons begin the AHL's Western Conference Finals against Toronto at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Cox Center.
Nearing the midpoint of this American Hockey League season, Oklahoma City Barons forward Tyler Pitlick wasn't quite sure where he fit in.
Other than sitting out some games early as the Barons rotated a large number of forwards through the lineup, Pitlick had been in the rotation for the most part but didn't quite feel comfortable.
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“It took me awhile to get a feel for everything, getting the feel for another new city, playing on my fourth team in four years,” Pitlick said. “I was just getting the feel for all the guys and just everything about playing here and playing in this league.
“But once you get comfortable, you go from there.”
Pitlick found his comfort level and played a critical role down the stretch and through the Barons' first two series in the playoffs.
The Barons open the Western Conference Finals at 7 p.m. Thursday against Toronto at the Cox Center.
Coming out of high school in the Minneapolis suburb of Centerville, Minn., Pitlick played one season at Minnesota State-Mankato, where he had 19 points and 11 goals in 38 games.
But his heart wasn't in playing at the college level.
“I sort of wanted to go play junior right out of the gate, but my parents wanted me to give college a shot and so did my agent,” Pitlick said. “He thought it'd be a good idea and it definitely was. I don't regret going to college one bit. I had an unbelievable experience and met a lot of great people — but I just wanted to go play junior and focus all on hockey and take the school factor out of it.
“I knew that's what I wanted to do, so I figured I might as well give it everything and go for it.”
So Pitlick played for the Western Hockey League's Medicine Hat Tigers last year, a season after being drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the second round.
After a solid season in one of hockey's top-tier junior leagues, the Oilers assigned him to Oklahoma City.
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