Photo By Dan Hickling/Hickling Images
Rem Pitlick took the USHL by storm last season, leading the league in both goals (46) and assists (43) one year after making his debut. For his efforts on the ice, Pitlick was named USHL Player of the Year, Forward of the Year and was selected to the All-USHL First Team. One summer later, Pitlick has been the focus of much media attention as he contemplates what could be next for his hockey career.
While at USA Hockey’s National Junior Evaluation Camp Pitlick mentioned that he was still undecided on his hockey future. With the option to return to Muskegon as the League’s returning scorer, or the ability to step into the University of Minnesota with a wealth of confidence from the year prior, it appears Pitlick is faced with a win-win situation.
“The coaches were great to me, my teammates were great to me, I had great billets. I can’t think my teammates enough,” Pitlick said of Muskegon. “They were awesome, and I think the chemistry I had with my linemates Matej Paulovic and Collin Adams, that was really a big thing for myself and our team.”
Last summer, Pitlick experienced a growth spurt and started an offseason workout plan that served as a springboard for his remarkable 2015-16 season. He says he wants to continue on that same path this offseason so that he can be physically prepared heading into next season, no matter where he plays.
After adding an additional 10 pounds of muscle this summer, Pitlick believes he will continue the upward trend in development that he has enjoyed late in his junior career. The forward has afforded himself extra time to develop by opting for the USHL and college hockey development path. He said he’s been always been a “late bloomer,” and playing college hockey puts him on more of an equal playing field.
“I think I’ve always been on a little bit longer of a development path. I’ve been a late bloomer kind of my whole life. I’m getting a little bit bigger and more on a level playing field with everyone else in terms of size and that sort of thing, and I think college, I have four years when I get there, versus if I went major junior or something like that, I only have two years left before playing pro hockey. I think college is a little bit longer, more time to develop, gives me a better chance to be more of an established pro if I get to that point.”
Following his breakout season, Pitlick was selected in the 3rd round, 76th overall by the Nashville Predators. He described how he felt on the day he was selected.
“Draft day was very exciting. I didn’t really know where I was going to be picked. I maybe had a feeling I was going to get drafted, but I didn’t know when and where, and it was just really excited to have your hard work pay off and get drafted by Nashville. It was really exciting.”
In addition to his personal offseason workout, Pitlick’s development this offseason included taking part in Nashville’s prospect development camp in early July. Pitlick mentioned some of the feedback he received from the Predators, and has set some goals to work on this season.
“Work on different sorts of skill things. Quickness of my release, my explosiveness, just getting stronger, that sort of thing. Just keep working hard.”
It certainly won’t be easy to make a decision in the spotlight that now follows the young Predators prospect, but that will only make Pitlick stronger. The added confidence of scoring at an elite level in the USHL last season, paired with performing well at the NJEC against the world’s best competition, should lend a favorable advantage to Pitlick no matter where he plays.
After all, the only people who may not want to see Pitlick in a Gopher sweater next season are opposing goaltenders.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 14th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2015-16. A record 37 players were chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft and more than 375 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.