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Blackhawks prospect Ian Mitchell to return to Denver for junior year

Denver's Ian Mitchell leaving the ice during the 2019 Frozen Four. | AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes

Blackhawks top prospect Ian Mitchell will pass on going pro next season in favor of returning to the University of Denver for his junior year, the school announced Wednesday. The defenseman’s decision pushes back his ability to sign an entry-level contract with Chicago until the spring of 2020.

Mitchell, the Hawks’ second-round pick in 2017, has proven to be one of the top blue liners in college hockey over the past two years. He played a starring role for Denver as a sophomore with 27 points in 39 games. He also served as an assistant captain for Team Canada at the 2019 World Juniors.

The Hawks were likely hoping to sign Mitchell to an entry-level contract this summer so he could compete for a spot in the NHL coming out of training camp. However, they’re also expected to have a very crowded depth chart on defense entering the fall, with prospects including Henri Jokiharju, Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin looking to crack a roster that’s already full of established veterans.

It’s possible Mitchell decided that, given the likelihood he would end up in the AHL, it was best for him to remain in Denver another year.

Mitchell, a right-handed defenseman, remains one of the top prospects in the Blackhawks’ organization. He’s a strong two-way defenseman who’s taken up a leadership role at one of the top college hockey programs in the country. Expect the Hawks to try to sign him next year before his senior season.