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Get to Know Mitchell Stephens
Date of Birth: 2/5/1997
Place of Birth: Peterborough, ON, CN
Ht: 6’0″ Wt: 187 lbs
Team: Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
It’s amazing what one postseason tournament can do for a player. While Mitchell Stephens was already on the NHL radar, having been the 8th overall selection in the 2013 OHL Draft, his surprising ascent up the draft board did not seriously begin until Stephens dominated at the Under-18 World Championships. Stephens was named team captain for Team Canada and finished second on the team in scoring en route to Canada winning the bronze medal.
Before that outstanding postseason performance, Stephens was a leader of his Saginaw Spirit team but only potted 48 points in 62 games played. His performance in the second half of the season has had scouts buzzing and Stephens likely pushed himself from a middle round selection to a potential late first rounder.
What Scouts See
A strong offensive player who has the perfect amount of resiliency, character, and attitude to play in key roles and not back down. Nimble skater with a threatening top speed. Physically willing to pursue the puck in the hard areas of the ice. Smart and crafty defensively. Very good hands and puck skills. Quick, accurate release on his shot that can fool a lot of goalies. All-in-all, an offensive, upwardly mobile presence that the opposition can’t let out of their sight.
Mitchell Stephens has developed a strong two-way game. He works to support the defence down low and contain the cycle game. He is always digging along the boards and playing a gritty game in all three zones. Stephens uses his speed and quickness to cause turnovers and quickly transition to the offensive game.
What BSN Avalanche sees
Speed, speed, speed. The easiest thing you can spot in a player right away is elite speed. Stephens is blazing fast and while he isn’t the most imposing physical specimen on the ice he uses that speed to impose his will on opponents every shift.
He’s an extremely hard worker who gets after it every shift and he has no fear out there. He loves going into the dirty areas of the ice and doing the little things that so many junior players, especially star players, struggle to do consistently. Stephens has a unique blend of high work ethic and patience on the ice where he plays hard but has no trouble slowing down and allowing the game to come to him.
Defensively, Stephens plays a complete game and his work on the penalty kill throughout his junior career his a testament to the trust he earned from his coaches.
His hands aren’t top-notch but he’s creative and consistently makes those around him better. His shot is decent but not special and his overall offensive potential appears limited. I don’t see him as more than a 30-40 point player in the NHL, which might be his biggest knock. His upside simply may not be very high.
Another red flag for Stephens will be that his game, especially offensively, did not really begin to round into shape until the season began winding down, culminating with his excellent appearance at the U-18’s for Team Canada.
Stephens’ torrid end to the season raised his profile quite a bit and has evaluators believing he could be a future second line center. Even if he doesn’t reach that level, he should be a dangerous third line pivot who can push the pace and be a dynamic bottom 6 player.
Expected Draft Position
Stephens’ rankings are all over the place, with CSS placing him 112th in North America, Corey Pronman ranking him 23rd, Future Considerations ranks him 66th, Bob McKenzie’s list has him 46th, and Craig Button ranked him 45th. So…nobody can quite agree on Mitchell Stephens. He could go anywhere from the late first round (unlikely but possible), to anywhere in the 3rd round.
How Prospect Fits in Avalanche Organization
Right off the bat, Mitchell Stephens is a questionable fit for Colorado simply because he’s a center who is likely to stay a center in pro hockey, which is Colorado’s deepest position at every level. His upside is significant enough, though, that drafting him 40th overall could end up as the steal of the draft.
Stephens’ high-flying style meshes perfectly with the blazing skaters Colorado already ices in the NHL and he could add further to that well-established dynamic. He would, however, have a steep climb up the organizational hill as the AHL team currently features 5 centers. Given another year or two in the OHL, this logjam should clear up and Stephens would be in a prime position to play a big role in San Antonio.
Given Colorado’s multitude of other needs, though, the team would have to be completely sold on Stephens’ upside to use the 40th selection on him. In the unlikely event he’s available at 71st overall, however, he would represent fine value for the organization.