Impact is defined as having a strong effect on someone or something. That has been the case for Lightning prospect and Saginaw Spirit center Mitchell Stephens. He was selected in the second round, 33rd overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft after the Lightning obtained the pick from the New York Islanders via trade.
The Peterborough, Ontario, native is in his third season with the Spirit and serves as an assistant captain. When asked to describe Stephens, Spirit general manager Dave Drinkill said he’s an all-around player who plays a big role on the power play, penalty kill and on 5-on-5.
“He’s your typical 200-foot player,” Drinkill said. “He drags other players with him.”
Last season, Stephens began to evolve on the OHL level. In 62 games, Stephens had 22 goals and 26 assists, leading the Spirit to an OHL postseason berth. In the playoffs, the Spirit fell to the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds in the first round.
The 2015-16 campaign got off to a good start for Stephens as he tallied five points (four goals, one assist) in the first six games. On October 16, he scored the lone goal for the Spirit in a 4-1 defeat to the London Knights. After the game, Stephens took off his skates in the locker room and realized he was hurt.
Later, it was confirmed he suffered a broken foot from blocking a shot earlier in the contest. The result: Stephens missed a month of action.
When asked to discuss his most admired intangibles, Drinkill praised his work ethic. “He’s very serious and is very determined to win,” Drinkill said. “To play pro hockey, you need to have that demeanor.”
Even with an injury-plagued season, Stephens is still on pace to finish strong as he’s registered 14 goals and 12 assists in 29 games. Stephens was also a member of Team Canada’s U20 squad at this year’s World Junior Championships where he had a goal and an assist in five tournament matches.
“He hasn’t been in the OHL routine,” Drinkill said.
Even with his entire skillset on the ice, Drinkill also admired his leadership ability and maturity, which will serve him well as he progresses. Moving forward, the Lightning’s first selection of this draft class seems to be a home run.