Current team: Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Weight: 194 lbs.
Central Scouting Ranking: 26
ISS Ranking: 17
If you want size on the wing, Paul Bittner has it. He's produced solid numbers on very successful Winterhawks teams, playing alongside some great players. While the team's enormous success has been a perk not all top prospects enjoy, it also is the main criticism of Bittner.
Bittner went all the way out to the WHL from Minnesota, and has produced very well in his three junior seasons. His numbers continued to rise year by year, nearly doubling his production from year one to year two. His +39 is very impressive, but is also a testament to the talent around him. During his rookie season Portland set a franchise record for victories.
He already has the frame to play in the NHL, and many scouts believe he will only get bigger. Some scouts say he needs to work on using his body more, as he isn't necessarily the physical player some would like for a player of his size.
Bittner has gotten the opportunity to play with some talented NHL prospects, including Oliver Bjorkstrand, Nic Petan and Brendan Liepsic. This season he only trailed the first two in points on the team. There are some questions on whether or not his numbers are a bit inflated due to playing with two top-rated prospects. He does have the tools that make him a first-round pick, including his strength,ability to hold on to the puck and powerful shot.
Bittner plays left wing, a position the Sabres already are decently strong at with Matt Moulson and Evander Kane. However, the Sabres are flush with right wing prospects like Hudson Fasching, Nicholas Baptiste and Justin Bailey and thin on the left (William Carrier is likely the most NHL ready, and that's saying something), so it would make sense that they'd still want to invest on the left side.
What They Are Saying
"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."
-Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects
"He's a smooth skater with really good hands who can make plays and is strong in tight along the wall. He protects the puck well and can retrieve pucks on the forecheck. With his size, strength and reach, he's tough to handle."
-John Williams, NHL Central Scouting
"His frame is NHL-sized already and, by playing in Portland, he has been exposed to a lot of great coaches and older players while getting into long playoff runs. 'He's a slick skating, big winger with a great release,' said one scout. 'He can be a little sleepy at times, but when he's on his game he's a real threat to score."
-The Hockey News
"I don't think he realizes at times how big and strong he is. 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."
-Winterhawks coach and general manager Jamie Kompon to NHL.com
"A big body that is hard to move…possesses a powerful stride that is hard to stop once he gets going…wide skating base allows him to bull his way around the ice and power through his checks…shows some decent hockey sense and awareness…possesses decent vision and quick hands…has room to add some serious muscle to his already impressive frame…has a long reach…physical play could be ramped up…still learning the defensive game, and is raw, but talented, in aspects…combination of size, hands and vision could make him a formidable offensive force in the future."