When he was signed as a free agent last August, few knew what to expect of Willie Mitchell as he had a history of concussions and, as a result, many were reluctant to welcome the nine-year veteran aboard. When he’s healthy, though, Mitchell is a versatile stay-at-home defenseman who’s a great presence keeping the puck out of harm’s way. Again, when he’s healthy.
Mitchell suffered a concussion late in 2009-10 when he was still playing for the Vancouver Canucks so naturally there were some mixed reactions to his signing. Also, the signing of Mitchell was somewhat of the denouement of the Ilya Kovalchuk saga that ultimately saw the Russian remain in New Jersey.
Mitchell proved to be a good fit with the Kings in his maiden season with the club as he collected five goals and five assists while collecting a +4 rating. However, because of an injury, the 34-year-old was subjected to just 57 regular-season games. Mitchell did, however, played in all six of Los Angeles’ playoff games where he scored a goal while adding an assist and collecting a +2 rating.
While the Port McNeill, British Columbia native’s points total weren’t anything that jumped off the page, a defenseman with Mitchell’s style isn’t expected to have his name on the scoresheet very often. Instead, Mitchell contributed in other ways. He ate up a lot of ice time by averaging 21:48 per game, which was crucial to the Kings’ success.
In spite of his 6’3, 205-pound frame, Willie Mitchell wasn’t much of a physical presence as he only registered 35 hits. Mitchell also had 59 shots on goal, which averaged just over a shot per game.
In terms of excitement and dazzle, you won’t find much of it from Willie Mitchell but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a liability and, in Mitchell’s case, it isn’t. From a defensive standpoint, Mitchell’s presence was missed when the Kings struggled early in the calendar year but rebounded once Mitchell returned from the sidelines.
Mitchell’s 2010-11 campaign was concussion-free and both he and the Kings hope that the same can be said for 2011-12. It was overall a good first season in Los Angeles for Willie Mitchell and fans hope that #33 will continue to contribute to their team’s success.