Crookston High School’s Paul Bittner will join the professional ranks of Canadian hockey.
Bittner, who will turn 16 in November, signed with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.
As a freshman forward last season, the 6-foot-3, 189-pound Bittner scored 15 goals and had six assists in 20 games playing for his father, Jon.
The move to the WHL means that Bittner will not be eligible to play NCAA hockey. Other Minnesotans have made the same move to major junior hockey in Canada recently. They include fellow ninth-grade forward Keegan Iverson of Breck who joined Portland last month.
“Paul already has great size to go along with tremendous skill. Very few 15-year-olds can excel in varsity hockey in Minnesota,” said Winterhawks General Manager & Head Coach Mike Johnston said in a press release. “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.”
Forward Benny Walker of Edina, and defensemen Travis Wood of Hill-Murray and Cody Corbett of Stillwater left high school hockey for the major junior ranks before the 2011-12 season.
Also departing high school hockey early during this off-season are sophomore defensemen Jack Glover and Ryan Collins from state Class 2A champion Benilde-St. Margaret's. Both joined the USA Hockey's National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.