Ian Mitchell

Why new Blackhawks defenseman Ian Mitchell wants to play with Duncan Keith

Why new Blackhawks defenseman Ian Mitchell wants to play with Duncan Keith

Ever since the Blackhawks selected defenseman Ian Mitchell at No. 57 overall in the 2017 NHL Draft, Hawks fans have been chomping at the bit to get him in Chicago.

Now, they'll only have to wait until the start of next season, when the St. Albert, Alberta native's contract kicks in. 

Mitchell, who spent his last three seasons at the University of Denver, won't be joining the team at summer camp or in Edmonton. He'd burn a year of his contract if he participated in camp and he's ineligible to play in the postseason tournament as players that signed during the pause were ruled out in the NHL and NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement extension.

Related: Why Ian Mitchell has eyes set on becoming 'big part' of Blackhawks' future

The 21-year-old signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Chicago on July 16 after agreeing to sign with the Hawks in April. He'll carry a $925,000 cap hit and will likely get plugged into the lineup right away.

On Wednesday, the newly-signed Blackhawks D-man spoke with Hawks media for the first time since his contract was made official.

Mitchell brought up a certain Blackhawks two-time Norris trophy winner and three-time Stanley Cup champ when asked who he's tried to model his game after.

"I guess growing up I always loved watching Duncan Keith and Tyson Barrie," the blueliner said. "Those were two players I tried to be like and tried to emulate my game after. Getting to hopefully meet Duncan soon would be definitely something pretty cool for me. I’m going to probably be a bit starstruck. To have the opportunity to hopefully maybe play with him would be really, really cool. Since we’re both good skaters I think we could definitely complement each other in that way."

Ian watched the Blackhawks' golden age begin as a youngster and he couldn't help but notice the way Keith played the game when the stakes were high.

"I think just growing up I was just a big fan of hockey. Them becoming a good team at that time, you just paid more attention in the playoffs when they’re winning series and they’re an exciting team to watch," Mitchell said. "You wanted to tune in when they were playing. Then just watching Duncan Keith, especially in the playoff time, when he logged almost 30 minutes a night and had his teeth knocked out and came back five minutes later. As a hockey player, that’s pretty much as cool as it gets. You become a fan through that. Growing up that was definitely a team you kept your eye on, for sure."

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Report: Defenseman Ian Mitchell officially signs with Blackhawks

Report: Defenseman Ian Mitchell officially signs with Blackhawks

On Wednesday, The Athletic's Scott Powers reported that the Blackhawks officially signed defenseman Ian Mitchell, 21, to a three-year entry-level contract, beginning next season.

UPDATE: The Blackhawks made the signing official on Thursday. Mitchell's contract will indeed kickoff next year and run through the 2022-23 season. He'll carry a cap hit of $925,000. 

He would have been ineligible to play with the Hawks in the play-in round of the NHL's 24-team playoffs this summer and would have burned the first year of his contract if he joined the team for Phase 3 training camp leading up to the postseason.

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The blueliner, who spent the past three seasons at the University of Denver, was drafted by the Blackhawks in the second round (No. 57 overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft. 

On April 13, Mitchell agreed to the terms of the contract but because of the NHL pause and the unknown circumstances at the time, the start date wasn't yet determined.

The defenseman has been thought of as a key piece to the Blackhawks' future since his selection. He captained Denver this past season and set a career high in goals (10) and points (32) through 36 games.

Report: Blackhawks' Ian Mitchell not expected to play in NHL's 24-team playoff

Report: Blackhawks' Ian Mitchell not expected to play in NHL's 24-team playoff

When the NHL's Return To Play plan and 24-team playoff format were originally being hashed out, there was some hope that the Blackhawks could receive some much-needed defensive depth from Ian Mitchell. But that may not be the case.

Chicago could use all the help they can get in their potential best-of-5 play-in series against the Oilers under the league's format.

Mitchell, 21, was drafted by the Hawks in the second round (No. 57 overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft. He spent the past three seasons at the University of Denver, captaining the Pioneers this past year and setting a career high in goals (10) and points (32) through 36 games.

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The promising defenseman signed a three-year entry-level contract with Chicago in April after the NHL paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 12.

Wednesday morning, TSN's Bob McKenzie reported players in a similar boat to Mitchell who signed during the pause, as well as unsigned draft picks, are not expected to be eligible if and when the NHL resumes to finish the 2019-20 season.