Pitlick Making Case for NHL Expansion Protection | Oilersnetwork.com - Edmonton Oilers News and Rumours

Pitlick Making Case for NHL Expansion Protection

It's amazing how much a list can change in only a few short weeks. When the 2016-17 NHL season started, you could pretty easily put in pen who was going to be protected when it came to the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft and who would be made eligible for selection to the Las Vegas franchise.

It appeared as though the Oilers would have no choice but to opt for the eight skaters and a goaltender option. Edmonton had at least four defensemen worth protecting and a variety of forwards that could have been made available, some the Oilers would have hoped might be selected. Today, that list is completely different.

NHL Expansion Structure

The structure of the protected list was that the Oilers could protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a netminder, or eight skaters and a netminder. The idea was that Adam Larsson, Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera were the easy choices. Because Darnell Nurse did not require protection and Kris Russell wouldn't be under contract at the time of the draft, only Brandon Davidson was the tricky choice.

Because Davidson has been hurt, he hasn't really shown his stuff this season and without doing so, it's a much more risky option for Las Vegas to select him knowing that there are other, more proven NHL defensemen available. This has changed Edmonton's need to protect eight skaters and leaves the forward group in a different spot.

If Edmonton protects seven forwards, Jordan Eberle, Milan Lucic, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Patrick Maroon and Benoit Pouliot seem to be the obvious choices. That leaves players like Tyler Pitlick and Anton Lander as maybe players.

Tyler Pitlick

Pitlick now has six points in 15 games. More importantly, he has five goals and most from the fourth line where he's found real chemistry with Anton Lander and Mark Letestu. For the first time in his professional hockey career, he's healthy and the Oilers are starting to see the benefits of having kept him around.

There was so much hope for Pitlick. He was drafted #31 overall in the 2010 entry draft and Edmonton really wanted the type of player he's showing himself to be this season. But, Pitlick had major injury issues and it was a 50/50 at best that he was even going to brought back this year.

Related:  Tyler Pitlick: The Edmonton Oilers Experiment

A Contract Extension?

It's too early yet to say that Edmonton should provide a contract extension to Pitlick. That said, if he continues to move up the line-up, playing key roles and contributing, extending him for a longer-term deal isn't going to be a difficult decision.

Coach Todd McLellan said of Pitlick after the Dallas game on Friday, "He makes an argument every night to be in the lineup. That's a great thing to see." Clearly Pitlick has the confidence of his coach and clearly he's going to be given more and more opportunity.

As the season progresses, who Edmonton will consider wanting to hang onto when the expansion draft rolls around will likely change. Production, player injuries and other transactions will all affect what happens in that draft. That said, the start Pitlick is having has him now a part of the conversation.

To be at this point in the season and to be considered a player that Edmonton may have to look at keeping around in a couple months, is great news for the young forward. Las Vegas is bound to get a good player from every team, but they may want young up and coming players as well.

Las Vegas also have a window of time to sign free agents this summer that will give them a competitive advantage. It means for 30 NHL teams, not locking up your players you want to keep is a risk. The Las Vegas team might want to sign a player of Pitlick's age and skill set if the Oilers don't so first.

Either way, the season Pitlick is having so far is great to see. He's had a rough road to get to this point. He deserves to finally be seeing some reward for his efforts.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

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