Rem Pitlick, who led the Gophers in scoring the past two seasons, gave up his final year of eligibility and signed with the Nashville Predators on Friday.
Pitlick got a two-year, entry-level contract with the Predators and will join them in Winnipeg, where they play the Jets on Saturday. Nashville is at the Wild on Monday night.
The Plymouth native and Shattuck-St. Mary’s product had 21 goals and 24 assists this season, ranking sixth in the nation with 45 points. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors, and his 31 second-half points led the country. His 10 power-play and three shorthanded goals tied him for first in Division I.
“He had a terrific season and especially just a giant second half. He’s a special player,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. “Very happy for him. Sad for us. Sure would have loved to have him back, lead our team.”
Motzko credited this season’s nine-man senior class for helping the team find its rhythm before a loss in the Big Ten tournament semifinals a week ago. But Motzko won’t have that luxury next year. Starting goaltender Mat Robson also went pro one year early, signing as a free agent with the Wild on Monday. So next year’s team will have just three seniors and a majority of underclassmen.
That also means open spots for big-time roles on the first line and at goaltender.
“We have to deal with the departure. And obviously, whole lot of minutes just opened up,” Motzko said. “Top-line minutes. Power-play minutes. Everybody goes up a level.”
Motzko might not find those answers until he sees the new roster skate this fall, but the team’s new leadership will take shape throughout the offseason, he said. Pitlick would have been a likely choice for team captain, as this year’s four captains were seniors.
Nashville picked Pitlick in the third round, 76th overall, in 2016. Pitlick’s cousin, Tyler Pitlick, currently plays for the Dallas Stars, and his father, Lance Pitlick, played for the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers in the 1990s and early 2000s. His younger brother, Rhett Pitlick, is also committed to the Gophers, likely for the 2020-21 season.
Lance Pitlick said he knew Nashville was interested in signing his son at the end of the collegiate season after meeting with Nashville’s player development team during the season. But it wasn’t a quick decision for Rem Pitlick.
“He has, obviously, an allegiance to Minnesota and still has some unproven things he wanted to accomplish there, not only individually but from a team perspective,” Lance Pitlick said. “But when you added everything up and where he was and the opportunity he was being presented with, it was pretty hard … to turn it down based on the season he had.”
Three other pro deals
Four seniors also started their professional careers this week with amateur tryout contracts. Goaltender Eric Schierhorn signed with the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder, forward Tommy Novak with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, Tyler Sheehy with the AHL’s Iowa Wild, and Brent Gates Jr., with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls.