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Prep Watch: Pitlick of the litter

Tyler Pitlick (Photo by RENEE JONES SCHNEIDER/Minnesota StarTribune)

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Tyler Pitlick (Photo by RENEE JONES SCHNEIDER/Minnesota StarTribune)

Hanging out at the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament, Tyler Pitlick would obviously much rather be on the ice instead of staring down at it. As Breck was beating Rochester Lourdes 3-0 at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, Pitlick was on his cell phone, his Centennial Cougars eliminated the week before in the sectional final.

“We had a pretty good season,” Pitlick said. “We had our ups and downs, it didn’t end the way we wanted, but it was a pretty good season.”

For Pitlick as an individual, the campaign was very successful. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior was a top-20 scorer in the state, posting 27 goals and 58 points in just 22 varsity games to lead the Cougars as well as the Northwest Suburban Conference. He also racked up an impressive plus-26 rating in the process.

“He’s an outstanding offensive player with the puck,” said Centennial coach Erik Aus. “I’d say he has the best hands in the state of Minnesota.”

Pitlick also has the physical dimensions that NHL teams will closely covet in 2010, when the November-born pivot will be draft eligible.

“He’s got a very big frame,” Aus noted. “I think he’ll be well over 200 pounds in the end.”

And Pitlick is certainly not afraid to mix it up, citing Phoenix Coyotes young star Peter Mueller as the NHLer he would most like to model his game after.

“He’s a power forward,” Pitlick noted. “He gets gritty down there and he’s from Minnesota.”

For Aus, it’s that combination of skill and brawn that makes Pitlick such an intriguing prospect.

“I think he’s at his best when he is physical,” Aus said. “He hits very hard for someone who is not too thick. His reach, his hands, his instincts…I think the sky’s the limit for him.”

A two-time MVP with the Cougars during his high school career, Pitlick now has a long summer ahead of him before he heads off to Minnesota State-Mankato to suit up for the WCHA’s Mavericks.

The young center, who still wants to work on his defensive game, is going to spend his time working out and getting on the ice as much as possible and he has a pretty good ear to bend if he has any questions – his uncle, Lance Pitlick, played 393 games in the NHL with Ottawa and Florida.

“He told me how it was and said it was a long grind,” Pitlick noted, adding that his uncle also had input on Tyler’s decision to head to MSU-Mankato. “He thought it would be a good fit for me, too. He actually helped me decide.”

In terms of conditioning, Pitlick should be in pretty good shape for the NCAA schedule. In the Minnesota high school game, the teams play three 17-minute periods and many teams – the Cougars included – don’t roll four lines. Aus said his Centennial squad was virtually a two-line team this season and Pitlick naturally benefited from that.

“He’s on the ice an awful lot,” Aus noted. “A lot of times, he would go out every other shift.”

And when a youngster has that combination of size and skill, it’s not hard to imagine him getting some major minutes in the big leagues one day.

Prep Watch, which features minor hockey players destined to become big names in major junior or the NCAA, appears every Thursday, only on thehockeynews.com.

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