HAMILTON, ON. — Forward Will Bitten was selected in the third round (70th overall) by the Montreal Canadiens at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo. Bitten is entering his fourth season in the OHL and his second with Hamilton Bulldogs.
In my opinion, Bitten is the brightest center prospect currently under contract with the Habs.
Former London Knight Michael McCarron is presently up with the Canadiens having played four games this season. Most expect that McCarron will be the next prospect who will make the transition to regular duty in the NHL. His overall lack of offensive upside has limited his effectiveness. Do not be surprised if Bitten becomes the top center with the Rocket of the AHL next season.
Bitten is undersized at 5-foot-10-inch and 170 pounds but that does not curtail his desire to go to the dirty areas of the ice. Bitten will only become bigger and stronger over the next two seasons.
The knock on Bitten is that he does not have elite skill. But watching his game closely over the past few seasons in the OHL he does posses NHL-caliber skating which is a desirable asset for prospects playing centre. He also has a decent pro level wrist shot. And his defensive play is at an elite level in the OHL and will only continue to develop with the higher level play in the AHL next season.
It is quite evident to me that Bitten processes the game at a faster speed than other players of his caliber, a high hockey IQ. With him matched up against the top opposing forwards for the past two seasons, Bitten rarely loses puck battles. With the Canadiens needing help at that position, he will continue to develop in the AHL next season.
Bitten will likely be part of Team Canada’s World Junior team this year. At the World Junior Showcase in Plymouth in August, Bitten was placed on the right-wing of the fourth line in games against Sweden and Finland. He was a healthy scratch in the game against Team USA. In the summer tournament, Bitten was one of Team Canada’s main penalty-killers and was relied on in the dying minutes of a game to protect a lead.