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FEATURE: Ian Mitchell Q&A catches up with newest Blackhawk signing Ian Mitchell

by Chris Kuc @ChrisKuc /

The Blackhawks' future got a whole lot brighter with the signing of heralded defenseman Ian Mitchell on Monday.

Mitchell, selected by the Blackhawks in the second round (57th overall) in the 2017 NHL Draft, immediately becomes one of the Blackhawks' most-promising prospects.

Prior to the pause in the NHL season, we caught up with the 21-year-old Mitchell for his thoughts on his decision to return to the University of Denver for his junior season, improvements in his game, his influences on and off the ice, his long-term goals and much more.

On deciding to return to Denver for his junior season...

Coming back to be a captain was something that was really important to me. Then, personally, I think I've definitely made strides to become a better hockey player.

Being more consistent every night, more impactful in offensive situations was something I was looking to do to build on my previous couple of years at Denver.

The whole reason I came to college was so I could be patient in my development and I wanted to take advantage of that. Playing here and playing top minutes and getting to play with my best friends is something I didn't want to leave too early.

I talked to my family and they were big for me as a support system and helping me make the right decision. Ultimately, it was my choice but I definitely relied heavily on my family and the people I'm close with in order to make that decision.

On being in the Blackhawks organization...

I want to be a Blackhawk for a long time. I'm really happy with being a prospect of theirs. I'm excited to hopefully get started with them soon.

When I get there I can hopefully make an impact and help the team win.

Video: Blackhawks sign Ian Mitchell

On his skills...

I'm aggressive on my toes. I'm a very instinctual player, I'm just reading and making plays how I see them. I'm definitely moving my feet and skating, that's the biggest thing. If I'm on my toes and creating offense I'm definitely at my best. When I'm not at my best I'm passive and sitting back. I have to be aggressive and take the game to the opposition.

On his biggest influences off the ice...

My parents (Bill and Sara) are the two people that were always there for me and driving me to games. My dad was there giving me tips while mom was there to console me if things didn't go so well. Those are definitely my two biggest influences hockey-wise.

On which players he looked up to as a child...

I was an Oilers fan growing up. Unfortunately, they didn't have much success when I was a kid so I didn't have much to cheer for. It was always those teams and I was just hoping they would do better than they did. I had Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle posters up on my wall.

On who he patterns his game after...

I'm a big fan of (the Maple Leafs') Tyson Barrie and Duncan Keith (of the Blackhawks). Those are two guys that I definitely watch closely and try to model my game off.

I haven't actually had a chance to talk to Duncan yet. I hope I will at some point. I'm definitely a big fan of his and have a huge amount of respect for what he's done as a hockey player and for the organization. He's definitely an idol of mine.

On why he's a defenseman...

Growing up, my dad was my coach and I wanted to be a forward but he told me, 'no, you have to play defense.' He felt that makes you a well-rounded player at a young age so I just ended up sticking with it.

On how soon he believes he can make an impact with the Blackhawks...

I feel like I can make an impact as soon as next season. When I see what some of the younger guys like Adam Boqvist with Chicago and Cale Makar (of the Avalanche) and (the Devils') Jack Hughes have done this year as rookies it gives me something I definitely want to strive toward and hopefully be able to do next year.

Video: Mic'd up: Ian Mitchell at Development Camp

On his interests outside of hockey...

I'm from a really small town (Calahoo, Alberta) and in the summertime I like to be outside and play golf and just hang out with my little brother (Sean).

I played hockey and baseball growing up but hockey has always been my passion. Since I can remember I wanted to be a hockey player. I've been pretty driven by that my whole life.

My dad played and as a Canadian you grow up and play hockey. I fell in love with it. Since I was little I'd be playing it on PlayStation or mini-sticks. That was the sport for me.

On earning his degree in finance from Denver in the future...

That's something that's important to me and my family as well. I'll definitely come back and finish.

On fellow Blackhawks prospect and former Denver defensive partner Slava Demin...

He's a really solid player. Great skater, very smooth. A really solid addition to the Blackhawks prospect pool.

Blackhawks Senior Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman on Mitchell...

He's such a good skater, very involved in the play. He does a little bit of everything for that team as their captain. I think it bodes well how he's going to transition to the NHL. I think his game lines up exactly how we want to play. He's a fun player to watch.

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