Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2015 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! For a Complete Listing of all our 2016 Draft Articles Click here.
After being the seventh overall pick in 2014 OHL Draft, Will Bitten had a solid rookie campaign, putting up 15 goals and 31 points for the Plymouth Whalers. Then things got weird. The franchise was sold to Rolf Nilsen and moved to Flint, Michigan. It was a challenging season to say the least, as the Firebirds experienced coach firings and re-hirings, the owner being suspended by the OHL, top NHL drafted prospects demanding and receiving trades, Rolf Nilsen running the team behind the scenes despite that suspension, another coach firing, and finally the league suspending Nilsen, stripping draft picks, and taking control of the franchise again. Through it all Will Bitten persevered as he continued to put up points, with 30 goals and 65 points in 67 OHL games.
Bitten also received international experience over the last two years, as he had five points in five games for Canada Red at the 2015 World Under 17 Hockey Challenge, two points in four games in winning gold with Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, and eight points in seven games at the IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championships. Bitten also played for Team OHL in the Canada/Russia Super Series, and in the CHL Top Prospects game. Bitten has athletic genes, as both of his parents were Olympic Level Badminton players for Canada.
Will Bitten Scouting Report: 2016 NHL Draft #38
Centre/Right Wing — shoots Right
Born Jul 10 1998 — Gloucester, ONT
Height 5.10 — Weight 167 [178 cm/76 kg]
Will Bitten is a great skater, with good speed and acceleration. He also has excellent agility and edgework. Bitten has the ability to stop or change directions on a dime, beating defenders with his shiftiness. Despite the fact that Bitten is undersized, he is very strong on his skates, with excellent balance and the power to fight through checks. The low cetnre of gravity and excellent balance allows Bitten to be effective in battling for loose pucks in the corners.
When you combine those skating skills with soft hands and excellent stick handling, and its easy to see why Will Bitten is difficult to contain off the rush. He can beat a defender wide and cut to the net, or if they back off to defend his speed, Bitten understands how to use the defender as a screen and unleash and hard and accurate wrist shot. His release is amongst the best in the draft class. Bitten also has excellent vision and can be a playmaker, working off the half-wall on the powerplay or by opening up passing lanes on the rush. He has good hockey sense and seems to always make the right play with the puck. Without the puck, Bitten gets to the high traffic areas necessary to create offense, and is not afraid to get his nose dirty. He is a non-stop worker who plays a gritty game, gets involved in board battles and scrums despite a lack of size.
Bitten brings his hard work to the defensive end of the ice. He supports the defence down low, and continues to fight to defend against the cycle game. He keeps himself between the puck and the net and uses a quick stick to create turnovers and quickly transition to offense. Bitten could stand to work on his face-off skills. He will also need to improve his upper body strength in order to contain bigger opponents on the boards.
William Bitten has the potential to be a top six centre in the NHL. He will need to continue to work on his game, and having a full season without any drama or coaching issues can only help his development going forward. He sometimes needs to town down the aggressiveness at times as it can lead to some bad penalties. Bitten plays a game that is similar to Brad Marchand, but without the extra-curriculars (chirping) that make Marchand such a hated player.
Bitten’s father is on record saying that there is “no way” his son will continue to play for a team owned by Nilsen, but its unclear if that stance has changed given the new sanctions put forward by the OHL. Whoever drafts him could also look to orchestrate their new prospect’s departure from the Firebirds, just as his NHL drafted teammates Alex Ndeljkovic and Josh Wesley did this year. This will be an issue to address for whoever takes Bitten in the NHL draft. No team would want a prospect being forced to develop in a potentially toxic environment.
The following is a compilation of Will Bitten highlights, taken from youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the #39 prospect on our NHL Draft board.