Bittner is joined by 2 other players from the Portland Winterhawks

Crookston's own Paul Bittner has been selected to the U.S. Under-18 Select Team that will compete in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament Aug. 5-10 in Breclav, Czech Republic and Piestany, Sklovakia.

The 6-foot-4, 205-pound winger is joined by two other players from the Portland Winterhawks, Keegan Iverson and Dominic Turgeon. Bittner is also one of three players selected that is eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft. The 18 other players selected are eligible for next year's draft.

"It's a real honor and I'm really grateful and thankful for the selection," Bittner told the Times. "It will be really cool to go overseas and see how different it is. This is a great opportunity not only for hockey but to see other cultures."

Bittner, who is one of seven players from Minnesota on the roster, leaves for Washington D.C. on July 28 and flies to the Czech Republic on July 30.

"It's quite an honor to be selected along with these other guys and I'm grateful and I will make the best of it with the guys and hopefully win a gold medal," Bittner said. "I'm going with two of my best buds on the team. It will be nice to know other guys from my team are coming along with me and representing Portland and USA."

Bittner finished his first season with the Portland Winterhawks with 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists) in 45 regular season games. He played in 19 playoff games as the Winterhawks won the league title.

"Portland helped me a lot with my development, along with everyone here in Crookston," he said. "Portland is developing me as a player and making me into a pro. This summer my strength and conditioning coach sends me workouts in emails."

Bittner has little time to relax after the tournament as he reports to the Winterhawks on Aug. 19 with the season opener Aug. 30.

The United States finished seventh in last year's tournament, but has finished in the top three ten times since the tournament began in 1991, including first place in 2003.

The U.S. roster contains five players who helped the Under-17 Select Team take first place in the 2012 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament in Czech Republic. The team is coached by former NHL player Bob Corkum.

The Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament is an annual event held each August for national under-18 teams from around the world. Named for one of the first Czech hockey stars, the Hlinka Tournament began in 1991 as a three-team showcase. Between 1997 and 2002, the format shifted to the current eight-team tournament. It was then named after Hlinka in 2007, three years after his death.


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