Chicago Blackhawks’ Prospects Proving Defense Wins Championships
By Aaron Goldschmidt
Interview with Ian Mitchell
What was your experience like at Blackhawks prospect camp this summer?
IM: It was great. It was cool to go up against some guys that I’ll be competing with down the road. It’s been a dream of mine to go to an NHL camp, and I thought I did well. I was really excited to go there and showcase myself.
Who were the players that impressed you the most at prospect camp?
IM: Henri Jokiharju is a really good player. He and I are probably similar in the way we play. I was really impressed with his game and it’s obvious they took him in the first round for a reason. Then there was Dylan Sikura, who I thought was the best player at camp. He was unbelievable.
This year the Blackhawks prospect camp was more focused on player fundamentals. What were your thoughts on the new structure?
IM: Honestly, I think I liked that format a little bit better than just scrimmaging because sometimes the pace isn’t always high. But if you’re practicing and working on skills, I’d say that’s more important in a development camp. I really liked the format and I hope they’re going to stick with it.
Da Windy City
You and Blake Hillman were paired together a lot at prospect camp over the summer. Do you think that’s a possibility here at DU?
IM: Yeah, for sure. You’ll have to ask Monty about that one, but it’s definitely a possibility. Hillman’s a left-hand shot and an upperclassman, while I’m a right-hand shot and a lowerclassman, so it seems to be a fit right off the bat. We’ll see if it ends up happening.
Blake mentioned you were roommates while at prospect camp in Chicago. Do you see him as a mentor?
IM: Yeah, absolutely. It works out really well that he’s had a couple years with the Blackhawks and a couple years at DU, so I’m always asking him questions and for his perspective on things so I can better understand situations.
What are your goals for this season?
IM: I want to be a part of another championship team. We have the team here to do it, so I’m just trying to do my part and be whatever role Monty wants me to be. I want to play as much as I can, and having a good start to the year will be huge for me to gain his trust as well as the other guys’ trust in the dressing room. I want them to trust me out there and think, “If we give the puck to Ian, he’ll be able to make a good play.” That’s kind of what I’m looking to do for the year.
I noticed you communicated a lot at prospect camp, things like calling out plays. Would you consider that your style as being a leader in situations like the powerplay, being a quarterback as such?
IM: Yeah, absolutely. I think that when I’m communicating and being vocal out there, I feel like I play a lot better. Not only does it help me, but it helps everybody else out there if someone’s talking and directing the play. I’ve always tried to be a leader on the ice and that’s just how I do it.
Blake mentioned that coach Montgomery likes his defensemen to focus on defense first, which will ultimately turn into offense. Is this a style you will have to adapt to?
IM: Yeah, I’m always working on my defensive game, so coming here is going to help me a lot in that aspect. I think that style is something I’m definitely willing to adopt. Anything Monty asks me to do, of course I’m going to try my best to do it.
What’s it like being away at college?
IM: It’s definitely a lot different. I’m a kid that likes to be at home, and it was tough leaving because I’ve lived there my whole life. I didn’t have to move away for juniors which was nice, but it’s also really cool being submerged in this group of guys like a family. It’s really cool, and I’m looking forward to this year. It should be awesome.
Next: Blackhawks Roster Projection Halfway Through Camp
Is there anybody you’re looking forward to playing against in college hockey?
IM: Yeah. Brandon Biro, Tyler Bush and Riley Simpson. Those are guys that I played juniors with. Brandon is with Penn State and Tyler and Riley are with Arizona State University. I don’t know when we’ll get that opportunity, but when it comes around I’m definitely looking forward to going up against them.