With a deadly combination of size and skill, Paul Bittner is a fascinating prospect heading into the 2015 NHL Draft.
The 6-foot-4 Portland Winterhawks forward projects to go late in the first round, but his upside has many wondering if can be an even better pro than he was a junior. And he was pretty good in junior.
Here’s everything you need to know about Paul Bittner:
Name: Paul Bittner
Birthplace: Crookston, MN
Current Team: Portland Winterhawks
Position: Left wing
Weight: 204 pounds
NHL Central Scouting Rank (North American): 26th
Marek’s Take: A raw power forward who could use some work on his skating as it seems to take him a while to get to top speed. Good strong shot. Played in all situations for the Portland Winterhawks including top line with Nic Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand. Comparable: Chris Kreider
Bittner is a Brian Burke kind of a player. The American forward has impressive size, at 6-foot-4 and 202 pounds, and has the potential to develop into a tenacious and nasty forechecker at the NHL level.
Size isn’t the only attribute that Bittner brings to the table. He has impressive hands and boasts a rocket of a shot. Consistent with many big-bodied forwards, his ability to protect the puck is a large asset.
“He’s going to be huge. He’ll be a 220-pound guy,” John Williams of NHL Central Scouting told NHL.com in January. “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 played for the Winterhawks in each of the last three seasons, improving on his offensive production every season. This past season, Bittner scored 34 goals, 37 assists with a plus-39 rating before adding 12 points in 17 playoff games.
Room for improvement
One of the knocks on Bittner’s game has been a bit of inconsistency. That’s why a player with his skill set is projected to go in the second half of the first round.
Despite being one of the bigger forwards in the WHL, he’s still adjusting how to use his size to his advantage.
“I don’t think he realizes at times how big and strong he is,” Winterhawks coach and general manager Jamie Kompon told NHL.com.
Once he puts it all together, he has the potential to develop into an offensive force. He said his favourite player to watch is Rick Nash but he doesn’t have quite the offensive ability of the star New York Rangers forward. However, his work in the defensive zone has stood out to scouts.
Bittner’s father played football at Iowa State University and according to NHL.com his dad’s cousin, Bart Buetow, played in the National Football League for two seasons during the 1970s as an offensive tackle with the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants.