Rem Pitlick’s homecoming with the Wild is all business
By DANE MIZUTANI | firstname.lastname@example.org | Pioneer Press
PUBLISHED: October 7, 2021 at 7:35 p.m. | UPDATED: October 7, 2021 at 9:37 p.m.
As the clock on his dashboard approached midnight, Wild winger Rem Pitlick seriously considered pulling off at the nearest rest stop to get a few hours of shut-eye. He had a sleeping bag with him and everything.
Luckily for the 24-year-old Pitlick, his mom Lisa came through at the last minute. She found him a hotel near Quincy, Ill., meaning Pitlick did not have to sleep in his used Nissan Pathfinder. He slept for a few hours before continuing his trek to the Twin Cities.
After roughly 13 1/2 hours of driving, Pitlick finally checked into his hotel on Wednesday night before hurriedly making his way to Xcel Energy Center for a preseason game. Needless to say, it has been a whirlwind for Pitlick since the hometown Wild claimed him off waivers on Tuesday afternoon.
“Not really settled yet,” said Pitlick, who got placed on waivers by the Nashville Predators earlier this week. “I didn’t know if I was going to get picked at all. I actually had the time wrong with my agent, so I thought I didn’t get picked up. Then he called me and goes, ‘We’ve still got another hour.’ I’m like, ‘OK.’ Then I got picked up and finished the packing.”
Now that the dust is starting to settle, Pitlick is excited for the next chapter in his career, back where it all began. He cut his teeth on the outdoor rinks in Plymouth as a kid and starred for the University of Minnesota before turning pro.
Though his time with the Predators didn’t go as planned — he played in only 11 games in the NHL after signing on March 22, 2019 — Pitlick is excited that his path led him to the Wild. He grew up cheering for the hometown team and is pumped that he gets to wear the sweater for real.
That said, Pitlick made it clear that he’s not going to get caught up in the hoopla that can sometimes be associated with a homecoming.
“I’m here to play hockey and try to earn an opportunity,” Pitlick said. “It’s not trying to hang out with my family or my friends. I’m here to play hockey. And I’m going to take this very seriously.”
The biggest thing Pitlick has working in his favor is he already has been down this road. He arrived in Dinkytown as a prized recruit and managed to block out the distractions on his way to the next level. He’s confident he can do the same thing with the Wild.
“It’s like, oh my gosh, I’m here, it’s amazing, people are texting me, people want tickets,” Pitlick said of his time with the Gophers. “I was able to kind of figure out how to not be distracted during that time.”
Asked why he decided to bring Pitlick in so late in training camp, with the Oct. 15 season opener against the Anaheim Ducks right around the corner, Wild general manager Bill Guerin said he felt it was worth taking a chance on a highly-skilled kid.
“He’s the type of guy that we value,” Guerin said. “He can score. He’s got a great shot. He’s high character. In talking to people that know him well, like Bob Motzko at the U, they have great things to say about his character and his passion for the game. There’s very little risk. We just thought it made a lot of sense.”
In his conversation with Pitlick earlier this week, Guerin also made it clear that this is his job.
“I joked with him, I said, ‘You’re not coming home. You’re coming to work,’ ” Guerin said. “It can always be a big thrill playing for the home team. We are excited to have him.”
As for where Pitlick fits in the lineup, Wild coach Dean Evason said he wants to see him play before he makes that decision. The plan is for Pitlick to play in the preseason finale against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night at the United Center.
“He’s got a skill set that we think is untapped obviously at this level,” Evason said. “He’s very excited about the opportunity and, speaking to him, very thankful to get an opportunity. Obviously he got put on waivers with the opportunity to probably get sent down. He’s here, and he’s going to get an opportunity for us, so we’re looking for him to be what he is.”
What exactly is Pitlick? Well, he has been a top-tier goal scorer at every level, including as a pro in the American Hockey League. All that’s left for him to do is prove it at the highest level.
“Obviously, I’ve been picked up,” Pitlick said. “But I don’t expect anything. I’m here to work. I haven’t fully established myself in the NHL. I’m coming here to work and see if I can earn an opportunity.”
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