2016-17 Team: Spruce Grove Saints (#15)
Date of Birth: January 18, 1999
Place of Birth: St. Albert, Alberta
Ht: 5’10” Wt: 165 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2017 first-year eligible
- THW (Pike’s Picks): not ranked (final)
- Future Considerations: 83rd (final)
- ISS: not ranked (May)
- Bob McKenzie: 61st (Mid-season)
- Craig Button: 87th (final)
- The Hockey News: 58th (final)
Along with the United States Hockey League, the Canadian junior A circuit has been the beneficiary of the recent trend of high-caliber hockey players wishing to keep their collegiate options open. While the USHL has only recently become a relative powerhouse, the Alberta Junior Hockey League has regularly seen players taken early in the NHL Draft. While Cale Makar may be the top AJHLer available in the 2017 class, Spruce Grove’s Ian Mitchell is another strong prospect from that loop.
After a first season in the AJHL where he established himself as a very solid defender (as a 17-year-old), Mitchell upped his game and was a very good defender this season as an 18-year-old – arguably only Makar was more impressive in terms of teens in junior A this season. Mitchell’s a strong puck distributor and skates well, which has really helped him create offense for the Saints. His mobility alone is a great attribute, as it allows him to scramble back into position when he pinches and occasionally gets caught too deep in the offensive zone. He was one of the top defenders in the AJHL this past season, a sign that he’s grown his game and become more effective at finding seams for passes and lanes for his shots from the point.
If there’s a downside to Mitchell right now, it’s his size. He’s a smart positional defender and he’s not a tiny guy, but he’s quite skinny and he’ll need to bulk up if he is going to be able to play the same style against fully-fledged pro forwards. The good news is he’s committed to the University of Denver, where he’ll have time to put some muscle on his frame. Mitchell’s a fairly raw player with a lot of developing left to do, but he’s got good fundamentals and a lot of solid raw tools. If he’s drafted by a team that’s patient with his development, he could be a very useful long-term addition to their organization.
NHL Draft Projection
Ian Mitchell seems like a solid bet to go somewhere in the third or fourth round.
“Mitchell is an offensive defenceman who has done quite well in his Tier II career with Spruce Grove in the AJHL. He can quarterback the power play and distributes the puck well in the umbrella formation. Good passing defenceman but also likes to shoot and puts it on net consistently. Keeps shots low for deflections or can find a hole in the goaltender to put the puck past. Likes to play in all three zones and is quick to jump on loose pucks in the neutral zone and takes it deep in the offensive zone looking for scoring chances. Battles hard in his own end but tends to shy away from physical encounters with bigger opponents.” – Marshall MacKinder, Hockey Now.
“Just a solid all-round poised defenseman in the making…is a mobile skater who makes strong decisions and can get up ice quickly when joining or leading the rush…makes great reads and heads up plays…shows impressive vision skating with his head up…makes accurate passes to his forwards at all ranges and velocity levels…owns a decent point shot that gets to its target regularly…plays physical despite his lack of size…can play a shutdown role effectively despite his lack of ideal size and strength…uses his smarts and instinctive play to defend…uses his body position well to box out players…cuts off angles to the net and gets his frame or stick into lanes to close them off…plays a mature defensive game and has the upside of a top four two-way guy.” – Future Considerations.
- Strong skater
- Good on-ice vision and hockey sense
- Good passer
- Strong positional defender
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Needs to add some muscle to his frame, he’s too skinny
- Doesn’t play particularly physical
- Occasionally over-commits in the offensive zone and gets caught out of position
Stylistically, Mitchell projects as a second pairing defender at the NHL level.
Risk – 1.5/5, Reward – 3.5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense 8/10, Defense 8/10
Mitchell represented Canada at the World Under-17 Challenge, the Under-18 Worlds, the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and the World Junior-A Championship. He won a gold medal at the U17s.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.