Ian Mitchell, the Blackhawks’ second-round draft pick in 2017, elected to stay at the University of Denver last season instead of turning pro. Most agree that Mitchell was ready, but another year at the college level could only help. And that it did. He served as the team’s captain and scored at nearly a point-per-game average (32 points in 36 games). Once he joined the Blackhawks at training camp before the start of their 56-game season, it was apparent that Mitchell was indeed ready.
Though he has yet to record his first career point and is a -5, there is more to Mitchell’s game to like. He has shown poise with the puck not often seen in rookie defensemen. He possesses the ability to use his feet to defend and quickly moves the puck in transition. There is no question he has fit in, and the Blackhawks have a top-four defenseman for years to come.
What the Numbers Say
Mitchell has played the fewest minutes by a Blackhawks defenseman in the team’s first three games. His 15:38 average ice time is nothing special, but he has made the most of his playing time. He has the second-best Corsi For percentage at 5v5 on the team with a 54.24, only trailing partner Calvin de Haan.
Mitchell has also allowed the second-fewest scoring chances against while at even strength, but some of those chances have led to goals. His five goals against at even strength is the most by a Blackhawks defenseman. Obviously, these numbers are not good, but there’s more to it. If Mitchell continues to generate offense and gains more experience defending, these numbers will quickly improve.
The Second Pair
Mitchell and de Haan have played the second-most minutes as a pair through the first three games. They have the best Corsi For% (58), best Shots For% (48.39), and best Scoring Chances For% (60) out of Blackhawks defensive pairs. Yet, their four goals against are the most of any Hawks pairing.
It’s obvious that Mitchell has elevated de Haan’s play. He has shown mobility in his own zone while being the “stay-at-home” defenseman, allowing Mitchell to join the rush. The two will continue to improve as a pair, and their goals against figures will only get better.
What’s On Tap Next
The Blackhawks face off for the second time against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday at 6:00 PM CT. The Hawks will look to get their first win of the season before heading back to Chicago to play the Red Wings later this week. Tune in to the Four Feathers Podcast for postgame shows, analysis, and commentary throughout the season.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick