Some surprising news emerged after Saturday’s morning skate when the Blackhawks announced that defenseman Ian Mitchell was being sent up I-90 to Rockford to join the IceHogs in the AHL.
Along with Mitchell, fellow blue-liners Lucas Carlsson and Wyatt Kalynuk and forwards Reese Johnson and MacKenzie Entwistle were also re-assigned to Rockford. The Blackhawks’ taxi squad was reinforced with forwards Brandon Pirri and Mikael Hakkarainen and defenseman Alec Regula.
Ben Pope of the Sun-Times offered some insight into the moves beyond Mitchell’s demotion:
Carlsson, Kalynuk, Johnson and Entwistle also going to the AHL. Presumably they would be the scratches tonight so it's about getting them in Rockford's game tonight.— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) March 27, 2021
The arrow for Mitchell has been pointing south for the last month or so, especially as the Blackhawks schedule toughened in March. He was a healthy scratch for both games against Dallas two weeks ago and hasn’t been seeing as much ice time since returning to the lineup. Mitchell’s season average is 15:16 but he’s reached that mark only once in the last eight games he’s played and is without a point in his last nine.
While the team’s possession metrics overall aren’t pleasant sights, Mitchell has been trailing the team rates frequently in the last month. In the last 11 games, Mitchell’s individual numbers have:
- trailed the team’s shot attempt share 9 times
- trailed the team’s expected goals share 7 times
- trailed the team’s high-danger chances share 5 times
And in 6 of those 11 games, Mitchell was starting in the offensive zone at least 50 percent of the time.
All the usual caveats apply here, of course. Mitchell is still just 22 years old and playing a condensed schedule in his first professional hockey season. There were going to be bumps in the road and the physical grind of this season was going to be a massive hurdle to clear. While it’s disappointing to see the organization decide he was in need of a demotion to the AHL, there’s plenty of time for Mitchell to head up to Rockford, find his game again and return to the Blackhawks lineup as the smooth-skating, puck-moving, defensively responsible blue-liner that he’s resembled at several times in his debut season.
At least, that’ll be the hope.