Ian Mitchell aiming to lock down roster spot with Blackhawks as he nears return

Ian Mitchell aiming to lock down roster spot with Hawks originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Ian Mitchell went into this past summer hungry to take advantage of a full offseason of training because he wanted to go into camp with the mindset that he was going to push for a full-time roster spot with the Blackhawks.

Instead, Mitchell was ruled out for six weeks at the start of camp due to a left wrist injury, which was obviously going to knock him out for the entire preseason and the beginning of the regular season.

"It was brutal," Mitchell said. "All summer you train for it, get ready for it and then you feel like it’s kind of all for not because then you’re out for an extended period of time and you lose your conditioning. It sucked, but I’m happy to be back soon here."

Mitchell told me he had been skating for a while to get his conditioning back up to speed — albeit, with a wrist brace, so no puck and stick — but he was recently cleared to practice in a non-contact jersey. He's expected to be cleared for contact at some point this week, and it could be as early as Tuesday when the Blackhawks return to practice.

"It’s just exciting to be back with the team now," Mitchell said. "I feel like the end is near here, because for a long time it was just taking forever. I never really got my season started, so it’s nice to be close to being back."

The biggest hurdle for Mitchell is pain tolerance. Wrist sprains are tricky because you're using that muscle constantly and it's hard to get it to a point where it's 100 percent again. It sounds like he's going to have to try managing it all season long.

"I had a tendon issue with that, it’s not all that uncommon in hockey," Mitchell said. "It’s the same thing that happened with Caleb [Jones] last year. You’re using your wrist all the time I guess and it pops out. It’s frustrating but there’s nothing you can really do about it."

Before the injury, Mitchell said a big emphasis for him this summer was focusing on being cleaner on his breakouts. He also thought playing in Rockford last season was "really good for me" because it allowed him to hone his craft in one spot.

During his rookie NHL season, Mitchell bounced around from the minors to the taxi squad to the NHL and it probably messed with his development a little bit. He mentally feels like he's in a much better spot.

"Just my calmness, my poise," Mitchell said when asked where he's seen the biggest improvements since his first campaign. "I feel like my rookie year, I started well and then it became kind of overwhelming and I was too jittery. Last year, I just felt I was able to settle in. I didn’t have to do too much and I could just play my position and let my skill shine through when it came to me, I wasn't trying to force it. I think that’s the biggest thing, was being out there and not being too jittery, just calming down and playing my game."

Now, Mitchell is trying to reshift his mindset from getting healthy to trying to secure a roster spot with the Blackhawks. His goal is still to make the team and make the management group and coaching staff's decision difficult, although it wouldn't be surprising if he was sent to Rockford for a conditioning stint, at the very least, since he didn't have the benefit of playing in preseason games.

"It sucks sitting on the sideline because you want to be playing," Mitchell said. "I’m just hopeful that when I get back in, I’ll be able to play well and see where it goes from there, that’s all I can control.

"Coming into this year, I’ve had a ton of confidence and my goal is, this was my year to make and lock down a roster spot. So my mindset now is, it’s just delayed and I’m just starting a bit later. I still have a ton of confidence and feel like I can help this team."

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