Dale and Dido – Budding Buds


    Two contrasts in Leafs prospects from the Memorial Cup with Chris Didomenico breaking his left femur, and the continued development of Dale Mitchell.

    It’s truly amazing that aside from a six-game stretch in February 2008, “Dido” never went more than two games without a point (regular season and playoffs) in his entire Junior career with the Saint John Sea Dogs and Drummondville Voltigeurs.

    The fine Alex Tran covered the injury to “Dido” that caused him to miss the Memorial Cup. Hovering with crutches in the shadows, his jersey hung behind the bench.

    Across the way, Dale Mitchell the Maple Leafs 3rd round pick in 2007 (74th overall) came into his own as the tournament progressed, ended up tied for the tournament lead in goals (5), and lucky number seven overall (6-5-1-6), including a dramatic natural hat trick in a 6-4 win over Rimouski, scoring in a mere 3:37 span in the third period with a slick wrister, tenacity and perserverence banging in rebounds.

    Add a beauty wrist shot from the faceoff circle in the Championship game and the will to put it away late in the third with a breakaway effort after beating Tyson Barrie to a loose puck, shooting it wide but drawing a penalty.

    I’m not often a fan of smaller players, but the motor on this kid never quits, and he’s developing into an effective, useful forward, very similar to the effort and work ethic displayed by Carolina’s Chad LaRose – a growing favorite – only Mitchell has a slightly better scoring touch.

    He falls in that gap with glimpses of top-six skills, a healthy and ferocious checking ability, with a developing sense of defensive awareness. A little small-ish to be playing against bigger opponents on a consistent basis … but that engine … there’s no quit to the 5-foot-9, 200-pound winger.

    Brian Burke touched on his lower roster philosophy in regards to player’s attributes his many interviews since taking the reigns, with a recurring element that a checking forward isn’t just a player with an engine and good checking ability with lead hands. Lower roster players also have a scoring touch, but their role is primarily that of shutting down the competition.

    Mitchell: Check and check.

    John Mitchell cut his teeth this season, developing into a fine third line center with some scoring touch and a good engine himself. The unrelated namesake from Windsor could make that third line sound more like a law firm rather than a checking unit.

    Mitchell, Mitchell and (fill in the blank). Specializing in body checks, and then representing you getting the number of the truck that hit you.

    The front line talent is about to come to fruition through the course of what should be an interesting off season (or two). Having a supporting cast of players that are able to shut down the opposition’s top lines is just as important. it wouldn’t surprise to see Dale get a chance at some NHL experience the upcoming season.