After waiting through 39 selections to start the second day of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the Canadiens added William Bitten with the 70th pick.
Bitten is an undersized player, and that’s likely why he was taken so low. He’s an excellent offensive player, and has the point-producing ability of a higher-ranked prospect. Dealing with a tough situation with the OHL’s Flint Firebirds this season, Bitten was unfazed by the upper management drama, and consistently contributed to his team throughout a roller-coaster season.
A great skater with a nose for the net, Bitten is a tough player to defend. He’s relentless on the forecheck, fighting to get the puck from much larger defenders, and coming out on the winning end more often than not. He uses his speed and work ethic in all three zones, and in all situations, seeing a lot of time on Flint’s special teams units during the year. He’s a complete player, with a very good chance of becoming an everyday NHLer.
Once he gets the puck, he uses quick, accurate passing skill to create an offensive opportunity from the boards.
As a result he recorded 35 assists through 67 games for the team, but passing isn’t his only offensive contribution. He also scored 30 goals, five more than the second-place player, and his 65 points eclipsed the second-best producer by 17 points. He did shoot at over 20% to achieve that goal total, but with the net-driving aspect of his play, his percentage should remain relatively high throughout his hockey career.
If Bitten is able to make the NHL, it will be because his tenacious style translated directly to the professional level. He will be a spark plug for his team, driving the play and forcing the puck toward the opposition net with reckless abandon.
Currently playing as a centre, he probably projects best as a winger in the NHL, where he can focus on his board play to move the puck to the middle of the ice. His skill set is a lot like that possessed by Brendan Gallagher, and while he may not project as a first-line player like his future teammate, he could bring a similar style to a lower line on the team and set up players on a secondary scoring or shut down line.
An elite manufacturer of offense this year, Bitten nearly doubled his production from last year (.48PTS to .97PTS) on a OHL bottom feeder (3rd lowest GF at 184). Mr. Flint, he led the team in goals, assists, and points, having 17PTS more than the 2nd highest scorer. If you needed any more proof he was a gamer who powered through poor external influences, 80% of his goals came at ES. Bitten is a charged, high octane, offense generator who would have done unthinkable things with actual talent around him. His skating is turbo charged; he may have led the league in breakaways and penalty shots from breakaways – that’s how ridiculously fast he was.
"Bitten is a competitive and versatile player who can play all three forward positions, dominate on the power play and be effective on the penalty kill. Overcame plenty of turmoil in Flint this season, while being a leader on that team, showing why he has pro potential and leadership qualities."
Hockey Prospect Black Book
Bitten is an offensive threat in the OHL and is likely to be one of the best players in the league over the next few seasons. As far as projecting him at the next level, he's a bit of a boom or bust prospect due to his size and lack of elite skill. He has the tremendous work ethic which will help him earn extra ice time, but will need to play bigger than he did at times this season to reach the NHL.
He competes hard all over the ice and scored most of his goals within five feet of the net showing willingness to go to the dirty areas. On the rush or cycle he uses his agility and skating to avoid checks. He needs work defensively and is sometimes caught leaving the zone early looking for a breakaway pass. He really needs to improve his strength as he is contained well by bigger more physical d-men. Lacks size but competes extremely hard goes to the dirty areas and doesn't shy away from anyone.
Future Considerations: #28
ISS Hockey: #73
Hockey Prospect Black Book: #39
DraftBuzz Hockey: #23
Bob McKenzie: #47
A fan of the Montreal Canadiens growing up, Bitten has the potential to slot into a spot on the right side in the near future for the team. He could end up being a more physical version of what Paul Byron currently brings to the team, and has the toolset to be able to move up and down the lineup as needed.
Considering the Canadiens didn’t have a second-round pick, they made up for that dearth of selections by taking a player who probably should have been taken in the second round. They just missed out on a highly skilled player in Vitali Abramov, who was selected a few spots before their selection came up, but came away with a quality prospect in Round Three.