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In recent years we are seeing more and more top prospects stick with Canadian Junior A hockey in order to retain their NCAA eligibility. Three players who choose that route were first round picks a year ago. Defenceman Cale Makar is a potential top ten pick this year. Meanwhile Ian Mitchell, playing for the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints and committed to the University of Denver next year, is looking like a potential second round pick. While he was drafted by the Fargo Force in the USHL, and Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL; he choose to stay close to home. Mitchell put up eight goals and 37 points in 53 games for Spruce Grove this year.
He has been a consistent player for Team Canada at the international level over the last two years. Mitchell was an alternate captain and scored two goals and five points for Canada White at last year’s Under 17 Hockey Challenge, bringing home a gold medal. He also played for Canada at last summer’s Ivan Hlinka; for Canada West at the World Junior A Championships; and for Canada at this springs IIHF Under 18s.
Ian Mitchell Scouting Report: 2017 NHL Draft #55
Defenceman — shoots Right
Born January 18th, 1999 — St. Albert Alberta
Height 5’10” — Weight 165 lbs [178 cm / 75 kg]
A little undersized, Mitchell makes up for it with his excellent skating ability. He has good speed and acceleration in both directions. His strong first step allows him to win races for loose pucks. The overall speed allows him to join the rush, or to pinch in at the blue line and still get back defensively.
Mitchell has very smooth pivots and edge work. He can transition from offence to defence quickly (and vice-versa). His lateral agility is also very good. This allows Mitchell to stay in front of the puck carrier, as well as to move and open up shooting and passing lanes. Mitchell needs to bulk up though. His lack of muscle mass allows bigger, stronger forwards to push him off the puck and give him issues in containing the cycle.
Mitchell is very good at starting the transition game. He can skate the puck out of dangerous areas and avoid the forecheck, before making a crisp pass to a teammate. He is especially effective at going for the long home-run pass to a streaking forward behind the defence. Mitchell is also effective at leading the rush himself. He can quarterback the play from the blue line, with the poise to control the puck, and the vision to make strong passes. He can also walk the line to open up shooting and passing lanes.
Mitchell does need some work on his shot. He is smart to keep it low and on net, leading to rebounds and tip-ins. However, he could stand to shoot harder. A little more muscle in his upper body is likely to make that happen.
Mitchell has good feet and maintains good gap control. His quick stick makes him difficult to beat in one-on-one situations. It also helps him to poke check the puck away from opponents. His size does become a bit of concern when trying to clear the front of the net, or battling in the corners against bigger and tougher opponents.
Projection and Comparison
While there are a number of smaller defencemen who are succeeding in the NHL today, Ian Mitchell will certainly need to add muscle mass before he joins that group. His strength and size are the biggest concerns. He will also need further refinements in his overall game when playing at the next level. It’s a big jump from the AJHL to the NCAA, and an even further one to the NHL. There is potential here for a strong skating, puck moving defenceman who can also play in his own end. There will need to be patience in development though. In terms of a comparison, Mitchell can be compared to Jared Spurgeon. This is a style comparison only though, not one based on talent.
The following is a compilation of videos, assembled from Youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect available on our draft board.
Main Photo via User’s Twitter account.