Will Bitten, the third-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in the 2016 Draft was sandwiched by two defencemen who played in the NHL last year - Victor Mete and Mikhail Sergachev.
But Bitten only signed his entry-level contract near the end of the 2017-18 season, while he was on his way to an OHL championship and Memorial Cup appearance where he and his Hamilton Bulldogs team finished third.
Bitten had a strong start to the season, as well as his team. By December, they gave their general manager no other choice but to go for the championship. Bitten had 64 points (20 goals, 44 assists) in 62 games but four goals and seven assists in 21 OHL playoff games and one goal in four games at the Memorial Cup.
The team acquired Robert Thomas, Ryan Moore, and Nicholas Caamano among others which relegated Bitten to a smaller role which contributed in his scoring numbers falling off.
“At the start of the year we didn’t know what we were going to do, or what the plan was so I was the guy at the start of the year,” said Bitten. “I thought I was playing really well and then at Christmas our GM had to make the decision to go for it because we were that good without a bunch of guys.”
“Winning the OHL is something I’ll always remember,” he said.
He also reflected on the tight schedule from finishing the Memorial Cup to going to development camp.
“I just got back from the Memorial Cup two weeks ago,” he said. “There’s no time off. That’s my job. I train all year, all summer. I’m dedicated to this and I just show up to camp, give my 100%.”
Bitten is a smaller player who uses speed and tenacity to get himself into scoring positions, but admits that he is focusing on certain things as he prepares for his first professional training camp and season, likely starting with the Laval Rocket.
“I want to improve my shot,” he said. “Turning pro next year against men it will be harder to get into tight areas and when you get a shooting opportunity you want to get your shot off quickly.”
“You always get bigger and stronger but the game is changing,” he added. “It’s all about speed.”