When Will Bitten was drafted into the OHL, seventh overall by the Plymouth Whalers at the 2014 OHL Priority Selection, research suggests he was 5’9” and 145 pounds. In major junior hockey, where the rigors of 70-game regular season schedules are well-documented, Bitten indeed had his work cut out to emerge among bigger and more physical players.
Fast forward two years and growth spurt has Bitten slightly taller now as he is approaching the 170-pound mark. There is no fear whatsoever in the Gloucester, Ontario native as he continues to make a name for himself as a consistently productive offensive forward. During his rookie season in the OHL in Plymouth, he appeared in 63 games, scoring 15 times and adding 16 assists.
During the past off-season, the Whalers relocated to Flint, Michigan, becoming the Firebirds. Early on in the season, turmoil ensued as the players took a public stand to support their head coach in what amounted to a struggle with team ownership. OHL commissioner David Branch stepped into the fray and was able to restore a semblance of order, but the incident created negativity in a market with a storied International Hockey League history.
On the ice, Bitten has maintained his focus, scoring at a point-per-game pace on a team that will not make the playoffs. Bitten has been a bright light in Flint, tallying 21 goals and 26 assists in 45 games to lead the Firebirds in scoring. He represented the team at the CHL Canada Russia Series in November. And prior to the current campaign, Bitten earned a gold medal with Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
Bitten was among the youngest players at the 2016 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. He’ll celebrate his 18th birthday on July 18, about a month after the 2016 NHL Draft. His younger brother Samuel is on the OHL radar, eligible for the 2016 OHL Priority Selection.
While the season in Flint has been somewhat adventurous, Bitten had an adventure of sorts en route to the Top Prospects Game. His flight routing began in Detroit, stopped in Minneapolis and then in Seattle before he finally arrived in Vancouver late on Tuesday night. Add in the three-hour time change and he spent much of Day Two playing catch up to some degree.
A well-spoken, upbeat and confident youngster, Bitten is ranked 42nd in NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings. According to CSS, Bitten is “an energetic and skilled forward who skates very well and competes hard on the play. He uses his deceptive speed effectively to challenge defenders on the rush and isn’t afraid to take pucks to the net despite his modest size. He possesses strong leadership qualities and refuses to be denied.”
Bitten spoke with Hockey’s Future prior to the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, with that conversation being captured in this HF podcast.
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