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Blackhawks prospect Mitchell models game after Keith

Defenseman hopes to have impact in NHL similar to three-time Cup winner

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

CHICAGO -- There's a lot the Chicago Blackhawks like about prospect Ian Mitchell, but the fact that there's not much they dislike might be the most appealing.

Mitchell, a 5-foot-11, 173-pound defenseman from St. Albert, Alberta, was selected by the Blackhawks with the No. 57 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Chicago used its second of nine picks to draft Mitchell primarily because he's a true two-way player.

"He has to continue to mature as a player and get a little stronger physically, but with Ian we didn't really recognize any areas where he was deficient," said Blackhawks director of amateur scouting Mark Kelley. "He's an elite skater, he's a very smart player and what also stands out is his decision-making with the puck, especially in the defensive zone."


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Mitchell, 18, has worked hard the past few years to develop those skills, including the past two seasons with Spruce Grove of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

"I feel with the way the game's going, defensemen who are my size have to be able to do a little bit of everything," said Mitchell, who will be a freshman at the University of Denver this season. "That's something I've definitely tried to work on a lot, just the all-around aspects of my game. I try to defend hard, but also be as dynamic as I can be offensively too."

In the past three drafts combined, the Blackhawks have taken defensemen with 12 of 25 picks, with most categorized as puck-movers who skate well and physically resemble Duncan Keith (6-1, 192). Mitchell is a little smaller, but still fits the mold.

"The first defenseman you look at [on the Blackhawks] is Duncan Keith," said Mitchell, who had 37 points (eight goals, 29 assists) in 53 games with Spruce Grove last season. "He's one of the best defensemen in the NHL, so growing up, those were the kind of guys I looked up to. Obviously, I'm a long way from being Duncan Keith, but I'm hoping to get there at some point."

The next step will be in college hockey. Denver won the 2017 NCAA Division I men's national championship and Mitchell is excited to help them defend their title.

He's also eager to play for coach Jim Montgomery, whose up-tempo system helped defenseman Will Butcher (5-10, 190) win the Hobey Baker Award last season as the best player in college hockey. Denver also has junior defenseman Blake Hillman (6-1, 180), who was selected by the Blackhawks in the sixth round (No. 173) of the 2016 draft.

"Those are guys I looked at when I was committing [to college]," Mitchell said. "I was able to say, 'They were able to get a lot better at Denver,' and that's what I'm looking to do, as well. It's an elite hockey program that hopefully can help vault me to the NHL. That's what I'm looking for."

If it happens, Mitchell be the second member of his family to do so. His uncle, Roy Mitchell, played three NHL games in 1992-93 as a defenseman for the Minnesota North Stars.

"We're kind of a hockey family all the way through," said Mitchell, whose 15-year old brother, Sean, is a forward. "It's hard not to think about [the NHL]. You're always thinking about it, but the biggest thing for me is just going to Denver and getting better there. I have a long way to go before I can make that step to the NHL."

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