We began our series of late first round draft targets of the Arizona Coyotes with a look at big man Brandon Carlo. Today, we stay in the WHL to take a look at a winger with enough size and skill to earn #26 on Central Scouting's final rankings list: Paul Bittner.
#26 - Paul Bittner - Left Wing - Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
2014-15 Stats: 66 GP, 34 G, 37 A, 52 PIMs
Another American skater, Bittner is 6'4" and 194 pounds, which makes him a large physical presence on the forecheck. He uses that strength to his advantage, and has been known to agitate opposing teams every now and then. Though consistency has been an issue for him in Portland this season, his head coach speaks very highly about his ability to hold onto the puck:
"I don't think he realizes at times how big and strong he is," Winterhawks coach and general manager Jamie Kompon said. "He's got three guys hanging off him and he's still hanging onto the puck and he draws the penalty and he's still able to make a play for a great scoring chance.
Like Carlo, Bittner's size is an unteachable asset, and his 0.82 points per game average in his WHL career demonstrates he isn't just a heavy hitter.
The Arizona Coyotes could use more size on the wings, especially if smaller players like Max Domi, Christian Dvorak, and Laurent Dauphin figure into the team's long-term plans. Bittner could become a versatile second/third line winger who poses matchup problems both at even-strength and on the power play.
There is an open question as to whether or not Bittner will still be around when the Coyotes reach the podium; he's ranked as high as 17th by other talent evaluators, and his combination of size and skill is a coveted asset in almost any NHL prospect system. And in Arizona, Bittner would be another left winger in a system that is already unbalanced between left and right wings.
Still, if Bittner is there when the Coyotes are up to select, he could add a variety of skills and talents to the Coyotes system, and would be a good use of a first round pick.