Ian Mitchell will be a big piece of the Chicago Blackhawks blue line for years to come. However, next season is critical for his development, and the team can not rush him.
Ian Mitchell is 21 years old, but he has not yet played a game in the NHL or the AHL. While I believe all Blackhawks fans are hoping to see him in the National Hockey League next season, that goal can not come at the cost of Ian Mitchell’s development.
Defensemen have it harder than forwards in a lot of ways. There are so many more responsibilities. Because of this, we hardly ever see defensemen jump straight into the NHL without spending a little time getting to know a new system or developing a little in Rockford.
While Mitchell has been playing hockey and improving since getting drafted in the second round in 2017, I genuinely believe a few games or maybe a season in Rockford might serve him well. Duncan Keith offers a similar situation that I think could help explain why Mitchell might need some time in the AHL.
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Keith was drafted in the second round of the 2002 NHL draft. After some college hockey and some time in the WHL, Keith moved over to the AHL for two seasons. From 2003-2005 Keith put up 51 points in 154 AHL games with the Norfolk Admirals.
Adam Boqvist did play a great rookie season with the Blackhawks this past year, but even he left areas to improve on moving forward. I would instead give them both that learning opportunity in the AHL rather than in front of some of the best players in the NHL.
If Mitchell comes into training camp a step behind the rest of the Blackhawks, and it looks like some time in Rockford with the Icehogs could serve him well, I hope that Jeremy Colliton and Stan Bowman do not force anything to try and make an asset look better.
We have seen the Blackhawks try and cover up their mistakes by just failing to address them. Look no further than Alexander Nylander to see that type of throughout process in action. Instead of trying to move him or send him to the AHL after struggling with the Blackhawks, Jeremy Colliton played him in the top six to see if more time on the ice would fix his game.
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Ian Mitchell is going to be a top-four defenseman for years to come with the Blackhawks. If he is not ready to step into that role right away next season, then let’s give him some time in Rockford to get to the level that the Blackhawks need him to be at.