Prospect of Interest: The 411 on Will Bitten

General managers from around the NHL comment on the importance of the 2016 NHL Draft.

Will Bitten is one of the more curious prospects you’ll hear about around this year’s NHL Draft.

He’s a dynamic forward with the offensive chops to be a real standout in the future, but off-ice commotion with his team, the Flint Firebirds, threw Bitten for a loop during his draft-eligible season.

Let’s get into the details of his story.

Age on June 24: 17
Current Team: Flint Firebirds, OHL
Position: Centre
Shoots: Right
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 168 pounds
From: Ottawa, Ont.
NHL Central Scouting Rank (North America): 43rd

Jeff Marek’s Take: One of the better smaller players in the draft. Having said that, he does play a very strong game. Great speed out of the gate and can play up and down any lineup.

Creative and versatile…
Reports indicate Bitten is a 200-foot forward with a knack for creating plays and finishing them off. Scoring 35 goals and 30 assists in 67 games this season is a testament to his dynamism.

With more on his skillset, here’s what has to say:

“Very naturally gifted skater that moves around the ice with ease. Excels in pressure situations and uses his vision to predict where the puck is going to be, and proactively gets his body into a position where he can either take it away or take off up the ice.”

They add that Bitten “also has an exceptional release on his shot, which he can get off quickly. Defensively, he is a buzzsaw that will not let up on the opposition, creating problems for them by causing turnovers and playing strong positionally.”

About those off-ice shenanigans in Flint…
They didn’t involve Bitten, they just affected him.

Firebirds owner Rolf Nilsen, upset with his son Haken’s lack of ice-time on the team’s blue line, upset the apple cart early in the season by firing coaches John Gruden and Dave Karpa. The players, including Nilsen’s son, reportedly turned in their jerseys and quit in response.

The OHL then stepped in and rescinded the firings, and Gruden and Karpa were given three-year contract extensions.

Then Nilsen decided in February to fire Gruden and Karpa again, this time in a supposed bid to push for the playoffs under new leadership.

In between the commotion, the Firebirds unexpectedly traded away star goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic and defenceman John Wesley, who both served as mentors to Bitten.

“My son went through a kind of a depression when Nedeljkovic and Wesley were traded,” Michael Bitten (William’s father) told Ken Campbell of the Hockey News in February. “The stats speak for themselves. I saw on a forum that said William only scored two goals the last 15 games and was minus-19 and that speaks volumes because that’s exactly what happened. It was the turmoil that was really getting to him. It was very, very difficult.”

About Bitten’s father and mother…
Michael Bitten competed in the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics in doubles as part of Canada’s badminton team. And William’s mother, Doris Piche-Bitten, competed in both singles and doubles at the Barcelona Games. She also participated in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, where Michael served as her coach.

Will and his brother Sam chose hockey.

Impressive showing on the world stage…
Bitten also represented Canada, both at the World Hockey Challenge Under 17 tournament in 2015 and in the World Junior Championship Under 18 tournament.

Bitten put up five goals and eight assists in his 12 games in a Team Canada uniform.

A photo posted by Bitsy (@willbitten14) on

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.