Tag: Willie Mitchell

San Jose Sharks v Florida Panthers

Ekblad is ‘really, really mature,’ according to Willie Mitchell


Willie Mitchell is full of praise for Aaron Ekblad.

“I think he’s like a [Drew Doughty], but obviously earlier in the process,” Mitchell, 37, said of his young defensive partner, per L.A. Kings Insider.

“He’s 18 and he’s so talented, so you don’t really have to say too much. To be honest, he’s a really, really mature kid, like really, really mature. He doesn’t look 18, doesn’t act 18.”

Not only are Ekblad and Mitchell partnered together on the ice, the first overall pick in the 2014 draft is living with Mitchell and his wife this year. (Which is nice for Mitchell because, with Ekblad being too young to legally drink, “you always have a driver if you have a glass of wine.”)

At 6-4-5, the Panthers are off to a promising start to the season. They smoked the Ducks, 6-2, in Anaheim on Sunday, with Ekblad logging 20:49 of ice time and collecting an assist. That helper gave him 10 points, the most of any rookie d-man.

“We’re keeping our goals against pretty down,” said Mitchell. “We’re not scoring a lot, but we’ve put some good wins on the board this year against some really good teams. So you can kind of sense that the young guys start to believe.”

The Panthers are in Los Angeles tonight to play Mitchell’s old team, the defending champion Kings.

Kulikov to undergo second MRI, will miss Florida’s next two games

Dmitry Kulikov

The Panthers will be without one of their minutes leaders this week for a pair of home dates against the Sharks and Isles.

Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, third on the team at 22:26 TOI per game, won’t play in tomorrow’s tilt against San Jose or Friday’s against New York because of a knee injury suffered over the weekend, per head coach Gerard Gallant.

More, from the Miami Herald:

Gallant said Kulikov is scheduled for a second MRI, but the team doesn’t think the injury is serious.

Kulikov watched Monday’s practice without crutches, but Gallant said he wouldn’t play the next two games at minimum.

“He won’t play the next two games and hopefully we know more by the West Coast road trip,” Gallant said. “We should know more later in the week.”

With Kulikov out, Colby Robak — who’s been playing as a forward — will be paired with Brian Campbell on defense, leaving rookie Aaron Ekblad to skate with captain Willie Mitchell. Erik Gudbranson and Dylan Olsen make up the other unit.

It’ll be interesting to see how Florida fares without Kulikov in the lineup. The club is playing .500 hockey — 4-4-4 through 12 games — but has a really tough stretch coming up after the Islanders game, with four consecutive road dates in Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose and Nashville.

Heads up: Scott Stevens reportedly interviewed for Player Safety gig

New Jersey Devils v Buffalo Sabres

Many critics of the NHL Department of Player Safety’s decision to hire Chris Pronger threw out the blurb, “Who’s next, Scott Stevens?” Well, maybe so.

Yahoo’s Nick Cotsonika reports that the league interviewed him while Bob McKenzie added that it’s by no means a “done deal” during Thursday’s edition of TSN’s Insider Trading. The Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti notes that Owen Nolan and George Parros were also among the interviewees.

Much like Pronger, Stevens was one of the best – and easily among the most intimidating – defensemen of his generation. It’s an understatement to regard both blueliners as two of the most polarizing players of their era, too.

One popular refrain regarding the changing standards for dirty hits is that Steven’s highest profile hits (career-threatening, bone-crushing stuff on Paul Kariya and Eric Lindros) would likely be illegal by today’s standards. It’s not all that shocking to see that a potential Stevens hire drawing some debate out from media members, too:

Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski brings up a salient point beyond all that bluster, though: would a Stevens hire be a bit redundant?

One of the great things about the NHL’s competition committee, by comparison, is that it’s a cross-section of players. Seriously, look at this group. Scorers, defensemen. Guys who hit, guys who get hit. A goalie!

In many ways, one of the guys Stevens basically ended, Paul Kariya, would be a better voice in the player safety room. We have hitters represented; what about the hittees?

It’s an interesting proposition to consider. After all, wouldn’t a “finesse” player provide some added perspective regarding when a guy might put himself in a “vulnerable position” and when it might be a flimsy argument? (One example: Jonathan Toews provided some interesting prospective on a big Willie Mitchell hit back in 2010.)

Either way, it’s clear that Stevens draws respect for his “hockey IQ.” He’s already off to a fairly productive career in coaching* and, polarizing or not, he was rarely suspended despite his physical style.

We’ll eventually find out if the league will make another controversial hire in an area that might just promote the most controversy among hockey fans.

(Aside from goalie interference penalties, maybe.)

* – Although it was put on hold.