Bittner to skip final 3 years of HS hockeyPaul Bittner gained plenty of attention after scoring 15 goals in 20 games as a freshman at Crookston High School. The 15-year-old forward now has picked out his next destination. Bittner has signed to play Canadian major junior hockey for the Portland (Ore.) Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. He will report to Portland in the fall.
By: By Brad Schlossman, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
Paul Bittner gained plenty of attention after scoring 15 goals in 20 games as a freshman at Crookston High School.
The 15-year-old forward now has picked out his next destination.
Bittner has signed to play Canadian major junior hockey for the Portland (Ore.) Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. He will report to Portland in the fall.
“They have great fans out there,” said Bittner, who went on a recruiting visit in early March. “The coaches are outstanding. They’ll go to the end of the earth to get you where you want to be. The organization is just great — the owner, the coaches, the players, everything. The guys were fun to be around. They took me as a friend even though I’m not on the team yet. I felt wanted out there. It was awesome.”
Bittner, a 6-foot-3, 189-pound forward, will join two others from this area in Portland. Minot High School forward Alex Schoenborn and Breck (Minn.) forward Keegan Iverson also signed with Portland in the last couple of months.
Because he signed with the Western Hockey League team, Bittner is ineligible for college hockey and will skip his final three years of high school hockey.
“That was the hardest thing,” Bittner said. “I’m a Minnesota kid and always dreamed about being a Sioux or a Gopher, but you’ve got to look at the big picture and what’s my main goal in life. What route is going to take you there? I felt Portland was the best route for me.”
Bittner attended tryouts for the U.S. National Team Development Program earlier this spring but did not get offered a spot on the team. Portland general manager Mike Johnston said he’s excited to get a player of Bittner’s caliber.
“Paul already has great size to go along with tremendous skill,” Johnston said. “Very few 15-year-olds can excel in varsity hockey in Minnesota. We’re excited he chose to sign with us and he joins a talented pool of young players who will be a big part of our future.”
Bittner’s first contact with Portland came last summer when the Winterhawks saw him play at the national camp and put him on their protected list.
“I flew out there in early March,” he said. “I wanted to take things slow. But I liked it and signed with them. I’m enjoying it right now.”
Schmaltz ranked No. 34
UND defenseman recruit Jordan Schmaltz is the No. 34-ranked North American skater in the final 2012 NHL draft rankings by the Central Scouting Bureau.
That means the defenseman from Verona, Wis., is projected to go in the second round.
Sioux forward recruits Drake Caggiula and Miles Koules were ranked No. 185 and No. 201, which means they are possible late-round selections.
The draft will be held June 22-23 in Pittsburgh.
Schlossman is a sports writer at the Grand Forks Herald