The Colorado Avalanche scouts and front office get a lot of well deserved credit for building a strong, young core of players who will be the faces of the team for many years to come. Something else they should get credit for is finding quality depth to play behind that core. Any team that has lofty ambitions needs to have both a strong core and good depth if those ambitions are to be realized, and forward John Mitchell is a perfect example of a quality depth player.
Mitchell was originally drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 5th round of the 2003 NHL Draft. After finishing his junior hockey career, Mitchell was assigned to the Maple Leafs' AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, to continue his development. He spent three seasons playing for the Marlies before breaking into the NHL with the Maple Leafs in 2008. He scored 29 points (12 goals, 17 assists) as a rookie in Toronto, a promising start. He did, however, run into a few snags in the next few years, being sent back down to the AHL during the 2010-2011 season, when he was traded to the New York Rangers. After spending a short amount of time playing for both the Rangers and their AHL team, the Connecticut Whale, he became a free agent, enabling him to assert some control over where he went next.
This is where the Avalanche front office comes in. They have a knack for spotting quality players that have yet to prove themselves, players that other teams don't want anymore, and in the summer of 2012, Mitchell signed with Colorado. He has played in 122 games for the Avalanche, missing only eight total contests over the last two seasons. This past year, he had a career high 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) and a career high plus-13 rating. He has proven to be very versatile in Colorado's lineup, as he has played left wing, center, and right wing on the third line or the second line, whatever the team's current situation required. Whenever someone is injured and the lines need to be shuffled, Mitchell plays consistently well wherever he is placed in the lineup, and that makes him invaluable to the Avalanche.
Moving into next season, it is hard to project where Mitchell's regular spot will be. Given the inevitability of injuries that every team faces, as well as Mitchell's versatility, he may not have what one would call a "regular" spot in the lineup. Wherever he plays, it appears that he has taken his game to a new level since coming to Colorado. Head coach Patrick Roy will certainly find an important role for Mitchell, regardless of what that role is or how frequently it changes. John Mitchell isn't necessarily a star player, but his value to the team is comparable to one.
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