When Minnesota last saw Rem Pitlick, he was an all-star for the Gophers hockey team. He earned many accolades, such as Big Ten All-Freshman Team, All-Academic Big Ten Team, a Hobey Baker Award nominee, and ACHA First Team All-American. In other words, he was a stud in college. These days, he’s becoming a critical part of an extremely deep Minnesota Wild team. While that is great for Pitlick, other players looking to make a stamp on the Wild will have a difficult time with that this season.
Many fans were confused when Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin plucked Pitlick off waivers from the Nashville Predators before the season. Why would the Wild add another forward when their roster was pretty much full?
He quickly showed why. He assisted on Matt Dumba’s game-winning goal in his debut. In his fifth game with Minnesota, he proved that he can provide more scoring depth to a team already four lines deep. Pitlick scored a natural hat trick in Seattle, showing fans that Guerin’s move to add him to the roster was prudent.
The Nashville Predators took Pitlick with the 76th overall pick in the 2016 draft. He grew up in Minnesota and played for Shattuck St. Mary’s and the University of Minnesota. Pitlick became a fan favorite during the three years he played in Dinkytown. He scored 47 goals and had 61 assists in 112 games played for the Gophers. His pro debut saw him play one game in Nashville and 63 for the Milwaukee Admirals, and he had a great season, becoming a promising and exciting prospect for the Preds. But he ultimately only played ten games for Nashville last year.
The Predators decided to put Pitlick on waivers before this season started so he could continue to play in the AHL. In a surprising move, Bill Guerin picked Pitlick from Nashville. The Wild’s roster was already tight, and with Pitlick’s recent performance, it’s even more difficult for others to crack the lineup.
For one, it will be difficult for Victor Rask to find his way out of the press box. The Wild acquired Rask in the Nino Niederreiter trade in 2018. He is currently in his fourth season with the Wild, and in seven games this year, he only has one goal and no assists. That brings his career total with Minnesota to 18 goals and 22 assists in 127 games. His inconsistent play and lack of reliability ever since he arrived in Minnesota has made fans glad to have Pitlick in the lineup instead of him.
The Wild also have several prospects in Des Moines looking to make their way to the Minnesota roster full-time. Adam Beckman and Connor Dewar got a taste of NHL games early this season, but only after illnesses put Pitlick and Mats Zuccarello on the shelf. There’s no room for any other players because the Wild roster is currently at full strength, and all lines are playing well. More time in the AHL shouldn’t hamper their development. They get to play at the top of the lineup and get valuable time on special teams, rather than sitting on the bench while the Wild are on a power play.
Fans are most likely going to call for the lineup to remain the same. Barring injury, COVID illnesses, and trades, the Wild most likely have their roster set for the year. And with everyone else playing so well, that leaves Rask and the prospects on the outside looking in.
Pitlick’s breakout game against Seattle was a great display of his talent. He has played his best games in a Wild sweater on a line with Ryan Hartman and Jordan Greenway. Hartman has become the team’s MVP so far, providing the primary assist on all three of Pitlick’s goals. His hat trick was the 32nd in Wild’s history, and he is the first Wild player to score a hat trick the same game he scored his first NHL goal. Along with Brandon Duhaime, Pitlick brings more young energy to the team, which is always helpful. He also has a unique creativity to his game. Just watch the breakaway goals he scored against the Seattle Kraken.
Pitlick has five points in five games this year, with a plus-four rating. He has one more goal than Kevin Fiala and the same amount as Kirill Kaprizov, again showing that the Wild’s bottom-six forwards are getting the job done just as easily as the top-six. Hartman is proving he can be a great player no matter the line he’s on, providing goals and assists everywhere he goes.
With a 10-4-0 record, the Wild are off to their second-best start in franchise history thanks to Pitlick’s hat trick and all-around great play from everyone on the roster. These past few games have shown how deep the lineup is and how anyone can step up and be a star on the team, no matter who they’re playing with.