TORONTO - William Bitten will be right in his element if things get a little feisty between the Canadiens and Maple Leafs young guns on Friday night at Ricoh Coliseum.
After all, the 19-year-old right-winger is trying his best to model his game after that of Brendan Gallagher, who certainly doesn't shy away from mixing things up with opponents far more physically imposing than he is at 5-foot-9.
Before boarding the team bus to Toronto for the 2017 Rookie Tournament, the Gloucester, ON native checked in with Gallagher at the Bell Sports Complex, picking his brain for some words of wisdom.
"I talked to him a bit, just saying hello and asking him how he was doing. He was really nice. I asked him for some advice. I told him I like his style of game and I try to play like him. He just told me to keep playing hard and he gave me a few tips," said Bitten, one of 23 players currently participating in the Canadiens' Rookie Camp - his second since being selected 70th overall at the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo. "I'm not the biggest guy [at 5-foot-10], but I like to go in the corners. I really like watching him play… He's playing in the NHL and living the dream. I'd like to be able to do that, too."
Bitten is eager to put those tips to good use over the weekend, obviously, as he looks to impress the Canadiens' brass and earn a spot at main camp next week back in Montreal.
"It feels good to be back. I got to play in the Rookie Tournament in London last year and I learned a lot from guys like [Michael] McCarron and [Nikita] Scherbak. This year, I really need to step up and show Montreal what I can do," insisted Bitten, who is clearly keen on making a solid impression in the days to come. "It would be cool to make it to main camp. Last year, I was sent to Junior. It would be an honor to come in and make it for a bit, get to know the pros and play some exhibition games."
Video: William Bitten on his goals for the season
Bitten is definitely trending in the right direction development-wise after stringing together a solid 2016-17 campaign with the OHL's Hamilton Bulldogs, chipping in to the tune of 23 goals and 57 points in 65 regular season games, before lighting the lamp three more times in seven postseason outings. That - coupled with his second consecutive appearance in the CIBC Canada Russia Series - earned him an invite to Team Canada's World Junior Summer Evaluation Camp ahead of the tournament in Buffalo in December.
"I was lucky to get to participate in the U20 camp for the World Junior Championship. It's always fun to put the Team Canada jersey on. It's an honor. I'm hoping to head back there for the next camp," mentioned Bitten, who would relish the chance to represent his country come Christmas. "It's been my dream since I was a kid. Making that team would be a dream come true. After being selected in the third round by Montreal in Buffalo, I'm hoping to head back there and play against Team USA in the outdoor game."
Bitten is also hoping that a stellar year in Steeltown might just lead to a call-up to the pros when springtime rolls around.
"If I have a good season, I'd like to be playing in Laval," insisted Bitten, on the prospect of potentially being in the Rocket lineup and playing in the AHL ranks down the line. "I'd really like to be there for the playoffs with them."
Given the way Bitten goes about his work on the ice, no goal seems unreachable so early in his young career.
"I try to play really hard every game because someone told me when I was younger that there's always someone in the stands watching you," said Bitten. "You always have to give 100 percent."