Across junior hockey, there are few programs more consistent than the Portland Winterhawks. Each year the club is competitive and chock full of players who project as quality professional hockey players. Teams looking to add size and scoring in this year's first round may dip into that well with Paul Bittner.
Bittner had a strong 2014-15 season for the Winterhawks. He was fourth on the team in points with 71 and scored 34 goals, which was the third highest mark on the team. All the players to outperform Bittner in both categories have already been drafted by NHL teams. He was also a steady contributor for Portland in their playoff campaign with four goals and 12 points in 17 games. His efforts allowed him to take part in the CHL's Top Prospects game earlier this year. In 2012-13, his rookie season, he was a member of Portland's WHL Championship squad.
Internationally, Bittner represented the United States at the Hlinka Memorial tournament in 2013. He had a pair of goals and three points in five games for the Americans.
As a player, Bittner is your prototypical power forward on the wing. He boasts a 6-foot-4, 204 pound frame and uses it to his advantage. When he is on the puck he protects it very well with his size. When he does not have it, he's an aggressive forechecker who successfully retrieves the puck in gritty areas of the ice. He has a good idea of where to be on the ice, which gives him plenty of opportunities to score. He shoots the puck well and is a quality distributor when he doesn't have a shooting opportunity. His overall game has earned comparisons to Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, another big, strong scoring forward.
At the next level, teams would like to see Bittner find a way to use his size even more than he does. While he is good at leveraging his frame, he doesn't always impose himself on opponents as often as you'd like. When he's facing bigger, stronger defenders at the next level, confidence in his size and strength will go a long way. If he can add some snarl to his game, he's an easy player to put on the ice for any head coach. Like most young players, finding consistency in his performance night-to-night will be crucial to taking the next step.
Expect Bittner to be selected by a team in the mid-to-late first round, with a slight chance he's available on day two.