Born: November 4, 1996 Age: 18 Hometown: Crookston, MN Height: 6’4’’ Weight: 204 Position: LW Team: Portland (WHL) CSS Rank: 26th among North American Skaters
A combination of size and skill makes Paul Bittner an intriguing option in the first round. The left winger plays for the always competitive Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. This season he posted 71 points (34-37-71) and 52 penalty minutes in 66 games, finishing fourth on the Winterhawks in scoring.
Bittner benefited from playing on a line with Winnipeg 2013 second-round pick Nicolas Petan and Columbus 2013 third-round pick Oliver Bjorkstrand. That helped him put up numbers, while showing the big winger can play higher up the lineup.
“Bittner is a good, effective winger who complements top-line players,” said TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button. “He’s smart and reads the play very well and understands how to take advantage of his linemates’ skills and at the same time contribute with his own. A good passer with a good shot and utilizes his size to gain advantages. The combination of skill and size is always coveted.”
Bittner’s size makes him appealing to scouts. He’s NHL Central Scouting’s 26th-ranked North American skater at 6-foot-4 and 204 pounds. He is another one of the quality power forwards available at the top of the upcoming 2015 NHL Draft.
"He's going to be huge. He'll be a 220-pound guy," NHL Central Scouting’s John Williams said. "He's a smooth skater, really good hands and [can] make plays and good in tight along the wall. He protects the puck well and can retrieve pucks on the forecheck and obviously at that size the fact he's able to do those things, that's what people like. He's not a power forward in the classic sense of 200 penalty minutes. With his size and strength and reach, he's tough to handle."
Bittner, 18, is still growing into his size and skill.
"I don't think he realizes at times how big and strong he is," Portland coach and general manager Jamie Kompon said, per NHL.com. "He's got three guys hanging off him and he's still hanging onto the puck and he draws the penalty and he's still able to make a play for a great scoring chance. Those are the things that he's starting to find out about himself more and more that he has that ability to do that. I'm not saying all the time, but he's just got that ability to fend off people and to hang onto the puck and use his body and use his reach and use his size and strength."
Bittner uses his size and strength to create room for his linemates. If he reaches his full potential, he’ll be tough to play against.
In addition to his measurables, Bittner has some winning experience and good genes. He won the 2013 WHL Championship with Portland as a rookie. He was also a part of the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament silver-medal U.S. team. Bittner’s father coached him and his brothers at Crookston High School in Minnesota. His cousin, Bart Buetow, played football in the NFL.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Curtis Joe of Elite Prospects: “A big-bodied power forward that plays with tenacity and an edge. Relentless on the forecheck and is able to bully his way to the net with his size and speed. Has a good stick around the net and has an accurate rocket of a shot. Thinks the game well and is able to frustrate opposing players while playing physically. All-in-all, an impact player that uses his size and skill to his advantage. Gaining consistency will be integral to his future success.”
A scout, per The Hockey News: “He’s a slick skating big winger with a great release. He can be a little sleepy at times, but when he’s on his game he’s a real threat to score.”
A scout, per Future Considerations: “An extremely raw power forward with so many tools, many of which are still underdeveloped, but also has loads of growth potential that has NHL scouts very excited for the player he could become for their teams.”