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HW Staff Mock Draft Pick 26: Paul Bittner

With the 26th pick in the draft, the Canadiens take a chance on a very big power forward with some big potential.

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Montreal Canadiens Prospect Review

The Canadiens' prospect pool is a mixed bag. There are some good players in there, but they may lack a game-changer at the moment, despite having a lot of very talented young players up with the NHL squad.

Fans should be excited about the development of prospects like center Jacob de la Rose, defenseman Jared Tinordi, and winger Tim Bozon. In addition to those guys the team has a couple exciting players playing in the CHL with top goaltending prospect Zachary Fucale being one of the most intriguing. The emergence of big center Mike McCarron in the OHL this season is also a promising sign. The 2013 1st round pick struggled at times in the OHL, but the 6-foot-6, 230 pound forward scored 28 goals and 40 assists this season through 56 games split between the London Knights and the Oshawa Generals.

With the way the Canadiens system works out currently they can probably afford to draft the best player on the board because of a good balance of prospects at different positions and a strong program in AHL Hamilton. They don't need a player who is one year from the NHL at the 26th pick. They can afford to be patient.

The only position they probably aren't looking to consider in the first round is a goaltender. If Ilya Samsonov makes it to 26, they might consider it, but they don't necessarily need a top goaltender pick and it's still probably too early to pick a goaltender. Though when they picked Fucale at #36 overall in 2013, they showed they aren't scared to make an early move on a goaltender.

About Paul Bittner

Bittner is a big kid (not to mention #OneOfUs) at 6 foot 4, 195 pounds. He skates well for an 18-year-old of his size. He has a good shot, likes to shoot, and has had a lot of success playing the screen on the power play for the Portland Winterhawks.

He isn't likely to jump into the NHL next year and be a force. He has developing to do, but may be a good fit for Montreal's system and has the potential to develop into a special player. He's a solid power forward who can do lots of dirty work in the corners and in front of the net. That may work well in tandem with the more skill and speed-focused prospects and young players in Montreal currently.

Bittner per Future Considerations:

Straight line speed is one of his better attributes as he uses his long and powerful limbs to pump vigorously and push the pace of play. Once Bittner gets moving, he approaches the play with reckless abandon and is not easily stopped or moved off course...We would describe his wrister as being 'heavy."...His puck possession skills are very simplisitic, without much flair and creativity in dekes. His main asset is his puck protection...Does not attack the net like you would like but instead lurks around hoping the play will come to him... His skating, while it has improved, is still a little rough and his acceleration is still a bit clunky. His footwork is a legitimate area of concern.

Scout quote from Future Considerations:

An extremely raw power forward with so many tools, many of which are still underdeveloped, but also has loads of growth potential that has NHL scouts very excited for the play he could become for their teams. Has the potential to become a top six goal scorer...or a complete bust.

Joe Yerdon at NHL.com:

"He's going to be huge. He'll be a 220-pound guy," John Williams of NHL Central Scouting said. "He's a smooth skater, really good hands and [can] make plays and good in tight along the wall. He protects the puck well and can retrieve pucks on the forecheck and obviously at that size the fact he's able to do those things, that's what people like. He's not a power forward in the classic sense of 200 penalty minutes. With his size and strength and reach, he's tough to handle." ... Bittner has shown those abilities this season in Portland, but at 18 years old those skills are something he's still learning how to use to his advantage.

How Would He Fit With the Wild?

It's the high risk, high reward thing that makes it hard to tell if he'd be a good fit for the Wild. There was speculation earlier in the year that Bittner, a Minnesota native, might be on the Wild's radar, but he's dropped down some rankings since the start of the season after having a slow start to the year.

At his high end, every team benefits from a big guy who works the corners well and has a knack for scoring. However, the Wild have had their share of big players with high offensive potential who have turned into second or third line guys. It's not a real need in their system at the moment.

In general, you need those guys and there's nothing wrong with those guys, but at pick #20, you hope to get a little more than that.  The Wild also have a couple big wingers in the system in Alex Tuch and Pavel Jenys. (Though Jenys can play center.)

The Wild don't necessarily draft from a position of need, but if they feel the same about Bittner and a center with the same kind of potential on the board, then the Wild may want to look toward a center. It is what their system needs most. Always draft the best player available, but if all things are equal, the Wild should be looking for center prospects.