The late rounds of the draft can yield prospects that have interesting tools and some advanced elements of their game, but see them fall due to being lackluster in other areas. Today, we’ll take a look at an interesting prospect who is seen as a bit of a prospect. Sam Bitten skates well, plays defense well, but still hasn’t found his offensive game much at the OHL level. Let’s learn more about this prospect.
Who is Samuel Bitten?
According to his OHL page, Sam Bitten is a 6’1, 192 lbs. center with a left-handed shot. He was born on March 21, 2000 and comes from Gloucester, Ontario. Taking a look at his EliteProspects page, we can see that he played his youth hockey with Leitrim MHA prior to his bantam hockey with the Ottawa Jr. 67’s program. In 2013-14 he was an standout player for the Minor Bantam AAA team with 45 points in 28 games while serving as Captain. In 2014-15 he kept his scoring touch with 44 points in 30 games while with the Bantam AAA team. He once again served as Captain so it really does seem that he has some leadership qualities. In 2015-16 he moved to the Mississauga Rebels program for his Minor Midget AAA hockey, putting up 46 points in 55 games.
The 2016-17 season brought on an important challenge for Bitten as he started the season with the Kanata Lasers, an Ottawa based club that plays in the Central Canada Hockey League - a Junior A league which serves as development for the OHL. He gave a good account of himself with 30 points in 51 games. That performance earned him CCHL All-Rookie Team honors and earned him a call up to the Ottawa 67’s, a team that had drafted him with the 92nd overall pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection Draft. He would put up 2 goals and an assist in 14 regular season games for Ottawa and was held without a point in 3 playoff games. This past season would see him put up 7 goals and 14 assists along with 70 shots in 68 regular season games for Ottawa. Bitten’s Ottawa team would go on to be outmatched by the eventual OHL Champion Hamilton Bulldogs in the first round of the playoffs in 5 games. Bitten was a factor though with 3 power play goals and 8 shots in those 5 games. If you want a visual of his shot density and goal locations as well as goal density from his primary assists, check this out from Ian Fleming on twitter.
Where is Samuel Bitten Ranked?
Bitten is a projected late round pick so there are only a few rankings available for public viewing:
- NHL Central Scouting Services: North America - 106 (Final), 94 (Midterm)
- The Draft Analyst: Not Ranked (Final Top 500), 392 (January Top 500), 216 (Preseason Top 500)
It’s interesting that at least publicly, Bitten seems to have fallen in the rankings. He slipped slightly on the CSS list, which isn’t really a big deal since guys ranked in that range can go all over the place on Day 2 of the draft. Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst never seemed really high on Bitten during the preseason and by the end of the season left him out of the Top 500 completely. With all that said, I have seen Bitten remain in the Top 200 on a draft guide by a reputable service.
What Others Say About Samuel Bitten
Back in December, Brock Otten of OHL Prospects came out with his Top 10 Under the Radar Draft Eligibles for 2018. Bitten didn’t crack the list but was an honorable mention. Here is what Otten had to say about Bitten:
The younger brother of Hamilton’s Will Bitten, Sam is a similar player in that he relies on his speed and skating ability to be a factor offensively. He’s been getting better and better as the season has gone on. Not quite sure he has the creativity and puck skill that Will does, but he’s also a few inches bigger. As we advance past the halfway mark, Bitten looks like a prospect about to really breakout.
Otten references Sam’s older brother Will, a 3rd round pick in 2016 of the Montreal Canadiens. While both players have speed and skating ability, Will is definitely more offensively gifted than his younger brother. This is evident both by watching the games and by comparing their draft eligible seasons to each other.
On May 22, Otten released his Top 50 OHL Players for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft - Part 2: 31-50. Sam Bitten came in at 39 and here is what Otten wrote about him:
Brother of Bulldog and Montreal Canadien’s prospect Will Bitten, Sam is no doubt a project. He’s very raw, but there’s a lot to like. For one, he skates as well as his brother does but is a few inches taller. He shows great puck protection skill, especially coming off the wall and he’s aggressive in attacking the net. The offensive production wasn’t terrific this year, but he played a depth role with virtually no special teams time. And it was his first full OHL season. His strength will need to be upgraded. As will his shot and ability to receive and handle the puck at full speed. But when you combine his size, speed, and puck protection ability in tight, you could have a very intriguing center prospect for the future. Would be shocked if someone doesn’t roll the dice on Bitten at this year’s draft.
I’m encouraged to read that Otten views Sam Bitten as a project as it means he has further room to develop. The fact that his skating, cycle work, and aggressiveness in getting to the front of the net is already there is a plus. Hopefully his shot can puck skills can keep developing as he earns a bigger role on Ottawa.
Here’s a quote from Sam’s brother will during their playoff series this past spring, courtesy of the CBC:
”He’s a rookie and he’s proven he can play big minutes. He’s a big forward who can score … He’s got three fights. He does it all. It’s pretty cool to see,” Will said.
The Hamilton Spectator also has this quote from Ottawa 67’s coach Andre Tourigny on Sam Bitten earning a role on the power play during the playoffs:
In the regular-season, Sam, who rated 94th on Central Scouting’s midterm list of North American skaters, was given little time on the power play and registered just seven goals in 68 games — all at regular strength.
Tourigny, the 67’s bench boss, said he only started playing Sam on his top unit with three games to go in the campaign. He tested him out on the advantage a few months earlier, too, but with a far lower success rate.
”Sam was not holding in front, he was drifting outside and trying to make plays,” he said. “I think the fact that he took about 40 games to have another chance made him stay in front of the net and he’s been pretty successful. It’s a matter of timing,” he added.
It will be interesting to see how Bitten performs with more PP time next season. He could be prime for a breakout.
A Little Video
Unfortunately with Bitten being regarded as a late round prospect, there isn’t a ton of video on him. Here is his first career OHL goal where he does well to head to the front of the net with his stick ready to receive a pass and slots one past the goaltender. That is the area where he’s going to have to get to in order to have the most success.
An Opinion of Sorts
I was able to watch a few Ottawa games last season and I have to say I agree completely with the reports that praise his skating ability. I have no doubts about that part of his game when it comes to reaching the next level. He did well to get up and down the ice, whether it was joining the rush offensively or coming back to make a play defensively. More often than not he makes the right pass as he seems to have a solid understanding of how to read the play. He’s capable of winning puck battles on the board and keeping the cycle alive when under pressure. While his offensive game hasn’t quite flourished yet he is reliable defensively and was relied on by Ottawa in his own zone. He even earned a role on the PK during his first full OHL season.
The first question I have of his game is whether or not he can improve his puck skills to become a more productive player. No doubt he has the talent to be an impact player in the OHL player over the next couple of seasons. Without developing a better shot and adding some creativity to his game, I have a lot of doubts about him becoming a NHL player. My other question is whether or not he’s willing to make a living in front of the opposition’s net. Willing to take that punishment in the playoffs yielded him with a PP role in which he saw success. That could be key to him to take that next step offensively and boost his stock as a prospect.
Overall, I don’t really think Bitten is a player that the Devils should necessarily target with one of their late round picks. I like quite a few elements of his game but have my doubts about him putting it all together to become a NHL player. I’d rather see them target players that already have that offensive edge to their game as they have higher upside and could yield more of a reward. With that said, I think selecting Bitten in the 6th or 7th round would be an ok move for any team and I wouldn’t be able to complain about it if that’s something that the Devils elect to do.
What are your thoughts on Samuel Bitten as a prospect? Should he be on the Devils radar later on in the draft? Are there any parts of his game that stand out to you in a positive or negative way? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!