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Mitchell Hoping To Be Top Six Forward

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

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Leafs prospect Dale Mitchell will tell you he has learned the value of a shot.

Any shot, close-in or far, bad-angle or from the slot, shorthanded or power play. In fact, said the 2007 third round draft choice, there is only one bad shot: one that doesn’t hit the net.

Because of the way it rockets into the glass, a hard, but errant shot holds a disproportionate amount of prestige, said Mitchell, a key member of the Windsor Spitfires, the defending Memorial Cup champs.

“It doesn’t matter who you are playing, most goalies will stop the first shot,” Mitchell said. “But our team has been getting 50 to 60 shots a game. One time in these playoffs, we got 75 shots in three periods and a 10-minute overtime. You shoot that often you are going to get some results.”

Mitchell has simplified his game. If it is six by four feet, he’s shooting for it, any part of it.

“My game is to score goals,” Mitchell said. “One area where I have changed is now I work on hitting the net, not gambling for the corners every time.”

It helps that Mitchell is playing with a wildly-talented team that has lost just three games in four playoff series.

As a player in his final year of eligibility, Mitchell’s wisdom is hard won.

Mitchell has scored seven goals and collected 17 points in 19 playoff games this season and no, his stats have not been padded by being stuck beside junior superstar Taylor Hall. Mostly, Mitchell works with Adam Henrique and Scott Timmins at even strength or on the power play.

Mitchell started last season with the Toronto Marlies but after nine games in which he scored a couple of goals and added an assist, he was sent back to junior.

Returning to a powerhouse made the demotion easier to take.

“I was disappointed when I was sent down, but it made it a lot better to know I was going to a great team here. I knew I was going to get more ice time and I was determined to get better.”

It didn’t take Mitchell long to grasp Brian Burke’s maxim that a good team has great skill on the first two lines and great role players on the next two.

Mitchell has his sights set on the first two lines and he has worked tirelessly on a complementary skill to shooting.

“One of the things I’ve worked on is getting stronger on the boards.” Mitchell said. “In the end, it’s about battling for a job and working hard to get better every day.”

Unlike everyone else in the organization, Mitchell still has the chance to grab a hockey stick and work in earnest every day.

“For now, my goal is to win another Memorial Cup and after that, hit camp in my best shape,” he said.
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