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Ian Mitchell trying to stand out among Blackhawks' many top defensive prospects

Blackhawks prospect Ian Mitchell talks to the media at the 2018 development camp. (Jimmy Greenfield/Chicago Tribune)

The problem with stockpiling young defensemen — at least for the defensemen — is some will end up buried at the bottom of the pile.

It’s possible all of the blue-line prospects the Blackhawks have drafted in the first two rounds over the last three seasons will make it to the NHL, but the sheer numbers make it very unlikely they’ll all play for the Hawks.

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Ian Mitchell knows this, and it doesn’t bother him one bit.

“Every NHL team has a lot of good defensive prospects,” Mitchell said Monday on the opening day of Hawks development camp. “So when you go out there, you want to showcase yourself as best as you can. And you want to be the defenseman here, so that’s my goal.

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“I want to prove to everyone that I’m a good defensemen (and) I deserve to play at the next level. There’s a lot of good players here (and) you’re all trying to succeed.”

Even though Mitchell, 19, was a second-round pick (No. 57) in 2017, the Hawks have four defensemen in camp this week who were drafted higher than him: 2017 first-round pick Henri Jokiharju, 2018 first-rounders Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin and 2016 second-rounder Chad Krys (No. 45).

But the defenseman in camp whom Mitchell would most like to play with in the NHL wasn’t a high pick. Blake Hillman, a 2016 sixth-rounder, was Mitchell’s defensive partner at the University of Denver last season before signing with the Hawks after the college season ended. Hillman made his NHL debut in March and scored his first NHL goal during his four-game stint.

Even though all of the players are wearing the same jersey this week, many don’t know anybody before arriving. So having friends can help with their comfort level.

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“Blake was so big for me,” Mitchell said. “Coming into prospects camp last year, it was my first time. He had been there a couple of times. He helped me out so much anytime I had a question, and even at Denver he was always there for questions. And on the ice, too, we really complemented each other’s games, and hopefully we get a chance to play with the Blackhawks someday.”

That day may come, but the competition will be fierce. Mitchell will have to contend with not only the other prospects, but also the fact he’s a right-handed shot like Jokiharju and Boqvist.

Mitchell isn’t a candidate to make the leap to the Hawks this fall, so he plans to return to Denver for his sophomore season. He’ll have to deal with a big change there as the Pioneers lost coach Jim Montgomery to the Dallas Stars this offseason.

Mitchell’s 30 points (two goals, 28 assists) were the second-most among NCAA freshmen, but he knows he’ll need to improve on defense to make it to the NHL.

“Defensively I’ve gotten a lot better,” Mitchell said. “Coach Monty really harped on me to be more engaged defensively and get harder to play against down low, so that’s something I still have to work on a lot. Hopefully here they give us a lot of tools to try to develop that side of our game. I’m just trying to be a sponge and take it all in here.”

jgreenfield@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @jcgreenx

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