Ian Mitchell – University of Denver (NCAA)
Here we have yet another 5’11” defenseman who looks to be very promising for the Chicago Blackhawks. Ian Mitchell was a star on the back end for Denver on both ends of the ice. The 57th overall pick of the 2017 draft recorded 30 points (2 G, 28 A) as a freshman. He’s on pace for about the same amount of points this season.
In his first season, Mitchell earned first-pair minutes with Blake Hillman, a 2016 Blackhawks draft pick playing for Rockford. Recently, he earned a spot on Canada’s World Junior team where he recorded three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in five games. Mitchell didn’t receive a ton of power play time due to a surplus of offensive defensemen on Team Canada, but he can really shine there when he’s quarterbacking one of those units. It seems that he’s flown a bit under the radar in terms of development, despite being one of the most improved prospects in Chicago’s system.
As someone who watches a decent amount of college hockey, I’ve been extremely impressed by Mitchell. His skating aides him in closing gaps, forcing the opposition to dump and chase or creating turnovers with his stick. His stocky frame allows him to position himself so he can block guys from the puck. His compete level is high in all situations. Mitchell has grown to be a steady defenseman and one of the best in college hockey. He was just nominated for the Hobey Baker Award, which is the equivalent of the NHL’s Hart Trophy.
All of his defensive upside has paved the way for his offensive game to grow. Mitchell isn’t afraid to jump to loose pucks in any zone of the ice and create rush opportunities. He currently quarterbacks Denver’s power play, using his vision to set up his teammates with Grade-A scoring chances. He has a good wrist shot, but he needs to learn how to find shooting lanes for himself instead of diverting to a pass. Once he gains some strength, his shot will improve and so will his confidence to use it when he finds the opportunities to do so.
Even though he’s probably a year or two out from being ready to vie for a spot on the team, Chicago Blackhawks fans should be incredibly excited about this guy. There’s not a lot of downside with Mitchell and the skillset to possibly mature into an elite defenseman. He draws a lot of comparisons to New Jersey’s Will Butcher, who also played for Denver, but looks to be more promising with a couple of more years of development.