Montreal Canadiens prospect Will Bitten has asked for a trade, and absolutely no one who follows the Ontario Hockey League is surprised.
Bitten spent last season in the challenging and unpredictable situation that surrounded the Flint Firebirds, and he’s made good on a promise that his father made to the media at the end of last season and told the Firebirds he won’t be reporting to training camp this year.
This likely isn’t because Bitten expects this season to be like the last — there’s a new general manager, and by all rights the environment should be much better this year. However, it’s understandable that for his development, he wants to be somewhere less fraught and more stable, where he can focus on improving his game. It’s not a stretch to assume that the Canadiens are fully backing him on this, as they have a vested interest in ensuring he develops into the best player he can.
Drafted at 70th, Bitten likely fell as far as he did at least in part because of the mess in Flint (the rest could very well be due to his size). He also only scored 65 points (30 goals, 35 assists) in 67 games last season, though that was good enough for first on the team.
He was consistently showing up in the top 50 in prospect rankings, with his highest being 28th by Future Considerations, and while he was never going to go in this year’s first round given the other talent available, he’s still quite a skilled player.
In Bitten, whatever OHL team pries him away from the Firebirds is getting a forward who is smart as a whip and has the skill to use it. He’s smaller — 5’10” and 168 pounds — but his speed is above-average, and his skating is strong, particularly his agility and edgework.
He’s got soft hands, handles the puck well, and can both make plays and shoot effectively. He’s also a hard worker, going to the tough areas of the ice and using his hockey sense to anticipate mistakes and create turnovers.
For a team looking to improve their forward corps, not making the call to see what it would take to get Bitten would be a mistake.
Potential Destinations for Bitten
Apparently, Bitten wants to return home:
Who can blame him? Last season took its toll mentally—his scoring dropped sharply at the end of the season, with Bitten only notching two goals in his last 15 games—and Bitten not wanting to return to that environment is about as surprising as the Knights snagging yet another talented American NCAA commit would be.
Of note: Sportsnet mentioned that Bitten would like to be based in a city where he can take courses in French, and pointed out that with their bilingual universities, Ottawa and Sudbury as his best options when it comes to post-secondary education.
Also worthy of a mention is the fact that Bitten’s brother Sam is currently participating in Ottawa’s training camp.
Let’s Make a Trade
According to OHLInsiders on Twitter, the price for Bitten right now is “steep”:
Whether they’re right is anyone’s guess, but it’s not exactly a leap. Bitten is a good player, and the Firebirds are a rebuilding club who now have to entertain trade options for their top scorer.
They’re going to be looking to get as many assets as they can for him. Ottawa has quite a few draft picks to spare, but other teams are going to undoubtedly try to match or exceed whatever the 67s can offer. It’s all about what appeals the most to new Firebirds’ GM George Burnett.
Bitten probably has quite a few teams interested in him right now. No matter who they are, however, it’s clear that Bitten, his family, and likely the Canadiens feel that anywhere is a better option than remaining in Flint. Now it’s time to sit back and watch the bidding war play out.