Seeking to keep pace in what again looms as an ultra-competitive Western Conference, the Sarnia Sting has added a seasoned center ahead of the 2019-2020 Ontario Hockey League campaign.
Dealing from a crate of built-up draft picks, Sarnia general manager Nick Sinclair has moved future third and fifth round selections to the Ottawa 67’s in exchange for 2000 birth-year pivot Sam Bitten.
A former fifth-round pick of Ottawa’s, Bitten played parts of three terms with the 67’s, totaling 175 games — regular season and playoffs included — in the process.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Bitten is coming off his best OHL showing, having tallied 13 goals, 22 assists, 35 points in 68 regular-season outings for Ottawa in 2018-2019.
As Sarnia looks to at least retain its Western Conference playoff status for the 2019-2020 season, the acquisition of Bitten is of “big benefit” to the Sting, according to aforementioned GM Nick Sinclair.
“We are very excited to be able add Sam to our current group,” Sinclair began. “He brings many intangibles both on and off the ice that will be a big benefit as we move forward into this season.
“His character, experience and the way he approaches the game on a day-to-day basis will be instrumental with our club, while his strong two-way game, versatility and ability to play in many key situations gives us an added element to our lineup,” Sinclair added, in further praise of Bitten.
Sarnia has made the playoffs in each of the past five OHL seasons. However, the Sting has won just one playoff series during that span, thus the acquisition of a proven performer such as Bitten adds another veteran skater to coach Derian Hatcher’s lineup.
Bitten will join a Sarnia forward lines assembly that includes Jamieson Rees, who was a second-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes at this year’s National Hockey League draft, and Jacob Perreault, who could be a first-round selection at the 2020 NHL process.
Not only that, overage captain Ryan McGregor has committed to Sarnia for the 2019-2020 season.
McGregor was a sixth round, NHL draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017 but has gone unsigned.
“The outcome with Toronto was tough,” McGregor relayed, “but I’m very optimistic about the coming season and I’m excited to be back in Sarnia where I can play my game and am able to lead a great group of guys.”
McGregor had an OHL career high 25 goals, 52 assists, 77 points in 61 regular-season games with Sarnia in 2018-2019.