The Chicago Blackhawks’ young defensive prospect pool is well-stocked. With players like Gustav Forsling, Henri Jokiharju, Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin, the Hawks are going to have quite an impressive wave of talent, hopefully, coming to the NHL. Another one of those young standouts is Ian Mitchell, one of Chicago’s four horsemen as a defenseman taken with the team’s first four picks in the last two NHL drafts. Mitchell jumped up eight spots from last year in our Top 25 Under 25 series after a stellar freshman campaign with the Pioneers.
Position: Defenseman (right handed)
Birth date: Jan 18, 1999 (19 years old)
Acquired via: 2017 NHL draft — Second round (57th overall)
Most recent stop: University of Denver
Size: 5’11, 173 pounds
Last year’s ranking: No. 16
It’s pretty clear the Hawks are going to need to establish some more productive offense at the blue line as core players Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook move to the later stages of their careers. Enter Mitchell, a slightly undersized player with speed that can move the puck well and stay in his gap effectively. During his freshman season at Denver, Mitchell scored two goals and 28 assists in 41 games. Paired with fellow Chicago prospect Blake Hillman, Mitchell uses his speed to evade opponents and consistently push the puck into the offense zone.
Iso on Ian Mitchell (15) for a shift pic.twitter.com/HPc5WsnbjP— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) March 4, 2018
Ian Mitchell handles the puck and carries into the zone pic.twitter.com/UwmYVJnLKE— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) July 20, 2018
Mitchell uses good skating and proper awareness to maintain defensive gaps and pinch opponents against the boards. When opponents choose to dump the puck into the zone, Mitchell can out-skate most opponents and gain puck possession. This is what Chicago is looking for, as their defenders seem to get “hung up” at the blue line while opposing forwards race to the puck first. Having speed like Mitchell’s will only benefit the tempo that general manager Stan Bowman and head coach Joel Quenneville want to stress.
Iso on Ian Mitchell pic.twitter.com/5Lo9dsQzWz— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) July 20, 2018
Then there’s Mitchell’s shooting ability. Where there’s proper defensive positioning, there’s also proper offensive positioning. Watch the clip of Mitchell below, and how he takes a drop pass right to the slot for a goal:
Ian Mitchell is smooth like Santana #DU1NATION pic.twitter.com/73P3zybrPN— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) January 20, 2018
Or this clip, where Mitchell snaps home a wrister at the end of a puck protection drill:
Here’s a look at Ian Mitchell’s puck protection and shot. pic.twitter.com/1CTehZH2Tj— Eric Andrews (@WALaxer19) July 19, 2018
OK, here’s one more just for fun.
Ian Mitchell with the nice finish pic.twitter.com/2I2X9lEb0h— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) July 19, 2018
What Mitchell lacks in size, he certainly makes up for in his skating, shot and defensive ability. With all of this stockpiled talent on the right side of the defense, the Hawks are going to be in great shape in a few seasons.
What’s next in 2018-19?
Mitchell will return to Denver for his sophomore season with a new head coach and linemate. Jim Montgomery left for the same role with the Dallas Stars, while Hillman signed an entry-level contract with the Hawks after his junior season.
David Carle is the new DU coach after serving as an assistant coach the past four seasons. At 28 years old, Carle is the youngest head coach in the country. Mitchell will also reunite with former Spruce Groves Saints (AJHL) teammate Sean Comire.
Mitchell told Scott Powers of The Athletic that he did speak with the Hawks about signing after his freshman season, but both sides agreed he should stay at DU for another season. Mitchell also said his No. 1 goal is make Canada’s roster for the 2019 World Junior Championship.