Why Ian Mitchell has eyes set on becoming 'big part' of Blackhawks future

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After three seasons at Denver, Ian Mitchell has officially turned pro and Chicago can exhale.

The 21-year-old defenseman signed a three-year, entry-level contract last week that carries a $925,000 cap hit and will kick in during the 2020-21 season. There was never a doubt on either side it would get done, but it hits differently when the pen gets put to paper.

"This is something that I've waited my whole life for and to get this opportunity is really special," Mitchell said in a video conference call on Wednesday. "I know I'll be ready, come whenever the next season starts."

Mitchell agreed to sign with the Blackhawks in April, but the terms had not been finalized yet because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Details needed to be ironed out between the NHL and NHL Players' Association regarding players that signed during the hiatus and it wasn't until the Return to Play/Collective Bargaining Agreement ratification when things were made official.

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Despite being ruled ineligible to participate in the 2019-20 resumption, Mitchell still had the option to burn the first year of his contract this season but decided against it because he felt it would be more beneficial in the long term to play three full seasons first. And he's right.

"For me, I felt that just having an extra year gave me another year to prove myself to the organization that hopefully at the end of that third year earn an even longer contract to stay in Chicago," said Mitchell, who was taken in the second round (No. 57 overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft. "I was hoping if I could come in and play well for three straight years, I'll earn a chance to stay here for a really long time."

The Blackhawks would have loved to get Mitchell in right away, but the silver lining is they'll have him on an entry-level deal through the 2022-23 campaign and that's crucial for a team that will be in a salary cap crunch for at least the next three years. 

Unfortunately for Mitchell, the reason he went back to Denver for his junior year was to captain his school to a national title, but the remainder of the season was canceled. But now he's on to a new chapter in Chicago, where he hopes to be a building block and the next generation of Blackhawks defensemen along with former first-round selections Nicolas Beaudin and Adam Boqvist.

"I hope I can be a big part of the future," Mitchell said. "Hopefully we can be that next wave that Hawks fans have seen before. We definitely have a lot of work to do and big shoes to fill in order to make that happen, but ... there's an opportunity for all of us."

Why Ian Mitchell has eyes set on becoming 'big part' of Blackhawks future originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago