Blackhawks development camp notebook: Ian Mitchell reiterates loyalty to Denver

The Blackhawks’ much-debated defenseman prospect makes it clear he’s not going to sign this summer.

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Mitchell is attending his third Blackhawks development camp this week, but can’t dodge questions about his future with the organization.

Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times

If Ian Mitchell is annoyed that his week during development camp has been consumed by inescapable questions about his future plans, he has done well not to show it.

But it would be a surprise if, somewhere inside, the Blackhawks prospect and current University of Denver defenseman is not getting tired of it.

“I’ve made my commitment, and being announced the captain of the team too, it’s made it difficult to change my decision,” Mitchell reiterated again Tuesday. “I wouldn’t really want to do that to my teammates.”

Mitchell, who has ascended arguably into a tie with Adam Boqvist as the Hawks’ top defensive prospect, announced in April that he intended to return to college for the 2019-20 season.

He’s nevertheless been peppered with speculation ever since about the Hawks’ ability to re-persuade him to sign immediately, especially now that his road to the NHL is clearer with Henri Jokiharju shipped away.

“Maybe if I hadn’t already said I was going back there, then maybe it would be a bit different,” he said. “But at the same time, I feel like I’ve developed a lot my first two years at Denver, and I don’t see why the third year will be any different.”

Entwistle gaining muscle mass quickly

Hawks forward prospect MacKenzie Entwistle has made big strides since last season in terms of both offensive production and physical dimensions.

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Now 6-3 and 192 pounds, MacKenzie Entwistle could be a quality bottom-six forward for the Hawks in the future.

Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times

At 6-4, Entwistle was slim at 182 pounds when his rights were traded from the Coyotes to the Hawks last summer.

He has bulked up to 192 now, though, and committed to molding himself into a checking line-type forward, which is what his future NHL role projects to be. He got a quick taste of what that’ll be like with Canada’s World Junior Championship team last winter.

“I was slotted into [that] role as an energy, penalty kill-type of player, and for me, that really helped me and it grew me,” he said.

In his fourth season in the OHL, Entwistle tallied a career-high 30 goals and 57 points in 57 games for Hamilton and Guelph, where he won the league title.

Day 2 of camp a grind for prospects

In the midst of the monotonous sequence of drill after drill that defines development camp —and the off-ice distraction of the Artem Anisimov-for-Zack Smith trade — one exercise stood out Tuesday for its intensity.

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It was a physical Tuesday for prospects at development camp.

Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times

In pairs, prospects — with no sticks — hammered each other along the boards, using only body leverage to fight for a loose puck. Coaches kept score of the winner of each pair.

“There’s a lot of battle drills, that’s the one aspect I’m not really used to,” a wide-eyed Alex Vlasic, attending his first camp, said afterwards. “We do a lot of 1-on-1, corner battle drills, so that’s pretty physical, that’s pretty tough on the body.”

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