John Mitchell: What Is His Role With the Team?


Over the past few seasons, John Mitchell has played just about everywhere. While technically being the team’s third-line center, Mitchell has also spent time on the ever line’s wings, as well as the second and fourth line center positions. Which leads to the question — what is his real role with the team?

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After being acquired as the replacement of third-line center Jay McClement in 2012, Mitchell started out playing in exactly that spot. He brought a similar skill set to the table, while being two years younger.

However, especially in the 2014-15 campaign, injuries forced Head Coach Patrick Roy to make some changes, including promoting Mitchell to the top six. There he played alongside Matt Duchene and Jarome Iginla, two of the Avalanche’s best scorers. He showed some good offensive skill, and while being unable to improve his scoring, he did prove that he can play just about anywhere.

With the additions of Mikhail Grigorenko, Carl Soderberg and Mikko Rantanen, and Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon already on the roster, the consensus is that Mitchell will end up as the fourth-line center. That is, unfortunately, the most likely scenario for him — at least as long the top six stays healthy.

Jan 21, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Boston Bruins center David Krejci (46) and Colorado Avalanche center John Mitchell (7) prepare to face-off in the second period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

As of now, it is safe to assume that Grigorenko and Mitchell will have to fight for a spot on the third line, with the “loser” of that battle centering the fourth. Grigorenko has the much higher potential and is more gifted offensively. He would be the perfect fit for a skilled checking line, which currently puts him ahead of Mitchell, before training camp even started.

The top six seems to be set, with Duchene centering the first line and Soderberg on the second. Even if Soderberg turns out to be nothing more than a third-line center, MacKinnon and Grigorenko would be more likely to fill the void on the second line. Former Penguin Blake Comeau and John Mitchell would then be the ones fighting prospects for the second-line wing.

Either way, Mitchell will have more competitors than ever, no matter which position his personal goal is. Not only did the Avalanche acquire forwards in the off-season, but they also have prospects that are ready to prove their worth. Therefore, it will be tough for him to even fight for the third-line slot that he was once signed for.

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However, that doesn’t mean that Mitchell is a bad player, or someone the Avalanche doesn’t need. In fact, he is simply a great bottom-six forward, who can occasionally jump into a bigger role. The thing is this: On a deep roster, he would be a valuable player on the fourth line. On a roster with less depth, he is a more than decent third-line forward, who can jump in to fill voids left by injury.

Furthermore, one of John Mitchell’s strengths is his defensive awareness, which makes him a great option for the penalty kill. His lack of speed is one of the main reasons why he isn’t suited for a permanent top-six role, but his puck skills and passing make him an option for the power play.

In the end, Mitchell’s fate is not in his own hands. It all comes down to the top six’s performance, and how quickly the prospects develop. Right now, Mitchell projects as a great fourth-line center, who will also get time on the penalty kill, perhaps even on the powerplay. That is his role for the upcoming season.

Where do you think John Mitchell should play? Let us know in the comments. 

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