In Prospect Profiles, we’ll take a look at a Lightning prospect and introduce you to them. These players represent the possible future of the Lightning. If you’re interested in seeing into the future, then this is for you.
Name: Mitchell Stephens
Weight: 196 pounds
Junior Team: Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
2016-17 Team: Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Acquired: 2015 Draft, 2nd Round, 33rd overall
BoltProspects.com Ranking: #8
Mitchell Stephens was a 2nd round draft choice of the Lightning and 33rd overall in the 2015 draft. The Lightning had traded down out of the first round with the New York Islanders getting this pick plus a third round pick used to take Anthony Cirelli. Stephens was the Lightning’s first pick of the draft.
In the two years prior to being drafted, Stephens had 21 points in 57 games as an OHL rookie and 48 points in 62 games in his second year. Last season he put up 38 points in 39 games as he missed time due to a broken foot and joining Team Canada’s U20 World Junior Championship team. Despite playing in 23 less games, he only scored two less goals last season. He also joined the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL season after Saginaw was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Perhaps in a show of what the team thinks of Stephens and his future with the organization, he played in five games with the Crunch and contributed one goal.
Stephens is one of the few forward prospects the Lightning have that has some offensive skill and some size to go with it. He is a skilled penalty killer that uses good positioning to disrupt opposing teams. He also plays a fairly simple north-south game at even strength. He looked good during the Prospects Tournament. Chad from BoltProspects.com had this to say of Stephens during the tournament.
I very much agree with Chad and his assessment. For one thing, the Lightning could be facing a cap crunch in 2017-18 and that could open up some room in the bottom six for younger players on cheap contracts. As a player, Stephens would fit in well in the bottom six providing responsible play and some offensive production even as an NHL rookie. He’s the type of player that Jon Cooper absolutely loves. He may end up with only very limited time in the AHL before he makes it to the big leagues.
It’s a bit unfortunate that Stephens has been on some pretty mediocre Saginaw teams since joining them. He’s never played more than five games in a playoffs in the OHL. With him entering his last year of Major Junior hockey with Saginaw, if they aren’t performing better, you could see Stephens being traded to a team higher up in the standings. Being surrounded with more talent could certainly help Stephens’ performance down the stretch, though it would mean that it’s less likely he would get time in the AHL at the end of the season versus staying with Saginaw.
Keep an eye out for Stephens this year. He was at a point per game scoring pace last season and with him being back to full health, I expect to see his scoring pace pick up for Saginaw. He’s also expected to be a contributor for Team Canada at the U20 World Junior Championships this year.