Author: Mike Halford

Portland Winterhawks v Kelowna Rockets

Get to know a draft pick — Paul Bittner


Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Friday in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from former Minnesota Wild scout Mark Seidel, who currently serves as the president of North American Central Scouting.

Paul Bittner (LW)

Height: 6’4 Weight: 204 Shoots: Left

Team: Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Country: USA

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 26 among North American skaters

What kind of player is he?

A big one.

One of the largest forwards available at this year’s draft, Bittner — projected to play at 220 pounds at the NHL level — utilized his frame and physicality to score 34 goals in 66 games with the Winterhawks this season. While some of that production came from playing on a stacked line featuring league MVP Oliver Bjorkstrand and Winnipeg prospect Nic Petan, Bittner gave the trio some much-needed bulk, routinely using his size to 1) make space for Bjorkstrand/Petan, and 2) create scoring chances by fending off opponents and driving hard to the net.

“I see Paul as a power forward,” Portland head coach Jamie Kompon said, per the Grand Forks Herald. “He’s a very good skater for a big man. He has a long reach. He has a terrific shot. He uses his body and size very well.

“I see him in that power forward role as a top-six player.”

Seidel says:

“Bittner is another big power forward that skates exceptionally well and has above-average offensive skills. He’s coming out of the ‘prospect factory’ that is WHL Portland, and his game has evolved over the past two years.

“We’d still like to see him become a little more aggressive and committed defensively, but a kid with his size and skating ability will be very enticing as teams gather for the draft on June 26. The game has become very fast, and Bittner’s ability to add offense and get in on the forecheck make him a quality prospect.”

NHL comparable: Chris Kreider

For more 2015 NHL Draft profiles, click here.

Sharks won’t re-sign Hannan or Scott, Niemi’s future uncertain

Scott Hannan

Adam Burish wasn’t the only Shark to receive his walking papers Friday — shortly after news of Burish’s buyout went public, San Jose GM Doug Wilson told reporters the club was also parting ways with veterans John Scott and Scott Hannan.

Scott, the heavyweight signed last summer to add an “element of security,” failed to make much of an impact beyond his two suspensions this season. Though he did score a career-high three goals, the 6-foot-8 enforcer appeared in just 38 games and averaged 7:27 TOI per.

Hannan, 36, was a little more of a factor, dressing for 58 games while averaging over 16 minutes a night. San Jose’s first-round pick back in 1997, Hannan was in his second tour of duty with the Sharks but became an afterthought following the trade deadline, didn’t play much, then suffered a few injuries at the tail end of the year.

As for veteran goalie Antti Niemi… well, the jury’s still out. Wilson suggested in the past he’d like to go another direction in goal, but stopped just short of cutting ties. It’s possible the Sharks will stay in contact with the Finnish netminder as a “Plan B,” should free agency not work out in their favor.

Leafs acquire Hobey Baker finalist Hyman from Florida

University of Michigan v Minnesota

Interesting move from the Maple Leafs on Friday, as they acquired the rights to University of Michigan standout forward Zach Hyman from Florida in exchange for center Greg McKegg.

The Leafs will also receive conditional 7th round pick in 2017 from the Panthers.

Hyman, taken by Florida in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, led the Wolverines in scoring this year with 54 points in 37 games, and finished as a Hobey Baker finalist.

In April, news broke of his intention not to sign with the Panthers.

A Toronto native, it remains to be seen if Hyman will ink with the Maple Leafs or hold out for unrestricted free agency. An earlier report from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggested both Detroit and San Jose were interested in his services — which could explain why Toronto got a head start by acquiring Hyman’s rights — and it’ll be interesting to see if Toronto can now persuade the 23-year-old to sign.