Blackhawks’ Ian Mitchell decides to return to Denver for junior season


Ian Mitchell has decided he will not turn pro and will return to Denver to play another season with the Pioneers.

In an announcement from the Denver Pioneers website today, Blackhawks prospect Ian Mitchell has decided to return to college to play his junior year. It was thought by many that Mitchell would turn pro after his sophomore year, but he believes Denver is the best place for him right now to develop. The Pioneers have reached the NCAA tournament in both of Mitchell’s seasons with Denver and made it to the Frozen Four this season. Here is what Mitchell had to say about his decision:

“In the past few days since our season ended, I have had the chance to reflect on the year and the season our team had,” Mitchell said. “It became clear to me during that time that I did not feel ready mentally or physically to leave Denver. I believe this is the best place for me to become a better hockey player and as a team we have an opportunity to do something very special next year. I would like to thank the Chicago Blackhawks organization for being so supportive and respectful of my decision to remain in school and continue my development. I am looking forward to next season.”

There were probably a lot of factors that went into Mitchell’s decision, including the number of young Blackhawks defenseman that will be fighting for ice time in Rockford for the IceHogs. Former Pioneer Blake Hillman is there now along with Notre Dame’s Dennis Gilbert and others. It is also possible that first round picks Adam Boqvist and Nicholas Beaudin could join as well. The AHL is a physical league that may not be the best right now for Mitchell’s development being a smaller player. Although the case is made often that playing more games prepares young players for the NHL, getting quality minutes in a storied NCAA program is good for development as well.

For folks that are worried that Mitchell could become the next Jimmy Vesey, do not be alarmed. Mitchell is a top prospect who loves the Blackhawks organization and their plans for his development. General Manager Stan Bowman is most likely understanding of where his players are in terms of development, but he and the fans have to be patient with the process. There are several Blackhawks defenseman in the system who could help at the pro level soon, but it is rare that players in their young twenties make a difference.

The Denver Pioneers will compete again next year for the NCAA Championship and Mitchell will be a big part of that campaign. He will be a captain again and will have more young players looking to him for guidance. It will be a big season in the NCHC that hosts some of the best teams in college hockey and it is possible that Mitchell will be one of the conference’s best players.

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