2019 Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25: Ian Mitchell at No. 5

The defenseman will return to Denver for one more season. Could he make his NHL debut after that season ends?

Second City Hockey’s 2019-20 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2019. The rankings are determined by a composite score from six SCH writers and more than 70 readers. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. The six SCH writers will make their ballots public after the series is completed.

Ian Mitchell might’ve started this fall as a member of the Blackhawks if he’d elected to sign with the team. It was one of the bigger questions circling around the Blackhawks prospects in the spring: would Mitchell sign or would he head back to the University of Denver for another season? Mitchell answered in mid-April, announcing he would return to Denver for his junior season. One month later, Denver named Mitchell team captain. But he was also adamant about his NHL future being in Chicago, telling Scott Powers of The Athletic that he wants “to play for them for a long time.”

Mitchell had another stellar season with Denver in 2018-19, leading the Pioneers to the Frozen Four. He also starred for Team Canada at the World Juniors, skating as one of the alternate captains. The buzz surrounding Mitchell was undeniable: multiple scouting reports had him pegged as the most NHL-ready defenseman among Chicago’s prospects.

And there’s still a possibility Mitchell could make his NHL debut during the ‘19-20 season. Once Denver’s postseason run ends next spring, Mitchell could ink his entry-level deal with Chicago and suit up for the Blackhawks. But timing could be a factor, depending on how far Denver advances in its postseason and whether or not the Blackhawks qualify for theirs.

Mitchell’s last appearance in Chicago came in July during the team’s prospect camp, where he was one of the standout performers in the scrimmage. There was this pass to Mathias From that caught the crowd’s attention:

He also had a nifty goal during a shootout:

What separates Mitchell from some of the other blue line prospects in Chicago is Mitchell’s defensive ability, which is seen in a few glimpses of this shift from prospect camp:

Despite being relatively undersized, Mitchell appears to have the skating ability, defensive IQ and positional awareness that could make him an effective NHL defenseman.

Once he signs, that is.

What’s next?

Mitchell will take one more shot at an NCAA title while participating in what should be his final college season. The NCAA postseason begins in late March and the semifinal round is April 9, five days after the NHL regular season ends. If the Blackhawks reach the Stanley Cup playoffs, Mitchell could be a postseason roster addition. With Denver expected to be one of college hockey’s top teams again, that seems like the only way Mitchell debuts with the Blackhawks next spring. A stint with the Rockford IceHogs in the Calder Cup playoffs could be another possibility for him to make his professional debut.

Is Ian Mitchell ranked too low, just right or too high?

Just right287