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NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Paul Bittner

Cole Hamilton Avatar
June 2, 2015


Get to Know Paul Bittner

Date of Birth: November 4, 1996 (18)

Place of Birth: Crookston, MN

Ht: 6’4” Wt: 204 lbs

Shoots: Left

Position: Left Wing

Team: Portland Winterhawks

In a league where talented power forwards are few and far between, it’s easy to see why scouts and GM’s across the NHL are drawn to the talented titan Paul Bittner. Bittner is a 6’4” winger who plays a tough game and uses every bit of his enormous frame to make things difficult for opposing defenders. Bittner has shown steady growth and improvement throughout his WHL career, scoring 12 goals as a rookie, 22 as a sophomore, and finally 34 goals in an impressive draft year which could see Bittner drafted in the first round.


What Scouts See

Cody Nickolet, WHL Scout for Future Considerations Hockey:

Paul Bittner could have the highest potential of any WHL player in the 2015 NHL Draft class. He’s a great skater for someone who is 6’4, he has a fantastic shot, good vision and solid hockey sense. Unfortunately he tends to leave people wanting more. His compete tends to be rather inconsistent and he didn’t produce as much as one might expect from a guy who spent a big chunk of the year alongside stars Nic Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand in Portland.

John Williams, NHL Central Scouting

He’s going to be huge. He’ll be a 220-pound guy. 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.

What BSN Avalanche sees

There’s absolutely no questioning Bittner’s size and strength, and when he finds opportunities to play a physical game Bittner is absolutely dominant at the WHL level. Bittner’s game is simple but productive. He plays north-south hockey, finishes his checks, and beats goalies with a hard heavy shot. Because of his size and ability to battle in tight spaces, Bittner is excellent along the boards and in front of the net.

When it comes to stick-handling and skating, Bittner isn’t particularly special. He uses his size, not his hands to protect the puck when carrying it through the neutral zone, and will need to find more tools if he is to succeed in the NHL, where opponents will be quicker and have a longer reach. Bittner is a decent skater considering his size and he’s very hard to disrupt once he reaches full speed, but his acceleration and fine skating motions need work.

The fact that Paul Bittner managed 34 goals this season considering his offensive limitations is a testament to his dominance physically. When Bittner plays big and finds ways to use his size he can be an impact player at any level, but he could be more consistent in his physical efforts, and he sometimes floats away from the play. Bittner does a good job of getting into passing lanes defensively, but when systems break down he struggles to make an impact in chaotic situations.

There’s no denying Bittner’s production this season, but playing alongside Nic Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand should give scouts pause. When consideting Bittner for the first round, teams should be careful to assess just how much Bittner did to drive his own production.

NHL Potential

Bittner is the type of prospect who has a very high ceiling, but also a low floor considering his ranking. If he can continue to develop his tool kit and consistently perform at a high level, Bittner could use his size and strength to become an absolute force in the NHL. On the other hand, Bittner’s hasn’t demonstrated the kind of natural talent that makes him a safe bet for a skill roll at the next level. If he struggles to develop, he could become no more than a bottom six checking forward.

Expected Draft Position

Bittner is something of a divisive prospect amongst amateur scouts and the difference in opinion is heavily rooted in how highly individual scouts value size. Bittner’s skills on their own would not make him one of the draft’s 30 most talented players, but finding his level of skill in a 6’4” frame is extremely rare. Depending on how teams value size in this draft Bittner could be selected anywhere from the middle of the first round to the middle of the second.

How Prospect Fits in Avalanche Organization

The Avalanche have made their interest in large powerful players a matter of public record over the last season, and Paul Bittner certainly fits the bill. Bittner’s production this season was impressive, and the Avalanche are in dire need of talented, scoring, forward prospects. On paper, Paul Bittner is an excellent fit for the Avalanche’s wants and needs.

That said, Bittner is a high risk high reward “project” player compared to some of the other players available in his range. As an organization desperate for young forward depth, the Avalanche may be better off drafting players who’s skills are closer to an NHL level in the first two rounds, and saving their boom or bust gambles for later rounds. The Avalanche would be making an enormous reach to take Bittner at 10th overall, but he could be a good value pick at 40th.

Looking for More?

Though he is one of the biggest, Paul Bittner is just one of many power forwards set to be drafted this June. Here’s a look at some of the others:

Timo Meier

Lawson Crouse

Evgeny Svechnikov

Pavel Zacha

Jordan Greenway

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