Photo Credit: Luke Durda/OHL Images
Last year’s draft could turn out to be a bit of a wild card. It’s difficult to evaluate talent in a season where an entire powerhouse junior league takes a season off; however if you’re a good scout with a good eye, good things will likely come.
I do feel there will be a bit of a correction in this year’s 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Especially in the 2003 age group.
Lots of quality 2003’s missed out on their rookie seasons in the OHL. That’s why I bring you one of the most interesting players, Kitchener Rangers Left Winger Mitchell Martin.
Martin hails from Sudbury, Ontario.
Martin played his minor hockey with the Nickel City Sons AAA program, eventually finishing his minor hockey days with the Sudbury Nickel City Capital Wolves AAA program. In AAA he was a solid contributor putting up a point per game totaling 14 goals, 33 points in 23 games. Thus, leading Mitchell to be selected by the Kitchener Rangers in the fourth round (81st overall).
Mitchells first season removed from AAA and post draft was spent playing Junior A in a nearby suburb of Sudbury, The Rayside-Balfour Canadians of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. Mitchell instantly made an impact putting up 8 points in his first 10 games of Junior hockey and never looked back.
This past year saw Martin’s role gradually increase for the Rangers to the point where he was playing top line minutes in their playoff series. The overager is a developmental project, but perhaps one which could pay dividends to the team that takes a chance on him.
D.O.B – January 6, 2003
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –209 lbs
Position – Left Wing
Handedness – Left
The one part of Mitchell Martin’s game that stands out is how often Martin is able to get off a dangerous shot. He has a superb off-puck game in the offensive zone that allows him to find areas of the ice for his teammates to feed him dangerous chances. While his puck skill isn’t very good; he possesses very quick and correct reads on where to move or take the puck. While he didn’t complete many dangerous pass attempts in my viewings; he wasn’t forcing the issue either. His turnovers in the offensive zone were often trying to make low risk-high reward type plays. Take this play for example:
Martin makes a great play to the outside to create space and work below the goal line. He’s not getting much support coming around the net on the half wall and the defense collapses on his high-danger option out front. He doesn’t really scan the front which is a slight concern, but one that he could’ve read easily out of his peripherals. Instead of going low-to-high coming out from behind the net and stretching the defense with a pass to the point; he tries to turn into traffic without protecting the puck and turns the puck over.
Similar turnover issue here:
Martin is able to get off the wall and move into a medium-danger part of the ice with a defender on his backside. He has a bit of trouble corralling the puck and never picks his head up to scan what’s going on once he got off the wall. If he did he would’ve noticed two options. The first being a safe option back to the point. However if you pause at the five second mark you see a forward calling for the puck in the bottom right of the screen. Had Martin picked his head up once gaining control of the puck and started turning towards the net he has a pretty easy medium-danger, cross ice pass to an open teammate. Instead he doesn’t protect the puck and ends up turning the puck over to the defender he had just left behind.
In transition he doesn’t possess the skill nor pace to be a consistent carry in/out transition player. However, he was very good at making quick, one-touch passes to move the puck up the ice and through the neutral zone like this.
The part of Martin’s game that is most intriguing are the brief flashes of skill and high-end processing plays that the big winger possesses. Take this clip for an example.
Martin toe-drags around the defender and just barely loses control of the puck. In a non-playoff game this is most likely going to lead to a penalty drawn as the inside defender ends up slashing him down just as he lost the puck. These quick glimpses of small area puck skill popped off the screen, but alas it isn’t a consistent part of his game.
Perhaps the area that Martin needs to work on the most is his skating. He is slow off the blocks and is a below average NHL pace straight line skater. He can get a bit heavy footed and his edges and lateral mobility suffer. His initial puck touches really dictate his transition game. When he gets a clean touch he’s a good one-touch transition player. When he gets a bad puck touch defenders are able to get on top of him which causes him to panic and turn the puck over.
If I had to pick one sequence that would describe the best parts of Mitchell Martin’s game it would be this clip.
Martin is able to pick up a puck and launch a high-danger shot, and then bring the puck into the zone and feed a high-danger pass for a goal. Martin was very good in my viewings at finding the puck in the dangerous parts of the ice and getting a nice wrist shot on net. There’s a reason he scored seven goals in twelve playoff games this year.
Martin’s defensive game is pretty simple to summarize: he tries hard on the forecheck, his skating limits his effectiveness but he uses his size well, but he has got to improve his defensive and spatial awareness if he’s going to project to the NHL as too often he will misread plays on the forecheck or in the cycle game and it has lead directly to odd-man scoring chances or dangerous shot attempts. In the clip above where he loses the puck exiting the zone one of my first gripes with the play was the lack of effort to get back on a backcheck. However, as I watched more games it wasn’t really an effort or motor issue but rather sometimes late in a shift Martin runs out of gas. Getting his skating to a level where his effort isn’t entirely on generating pace but rather for duration of shift length will help as well.
Here’s an example of his awareness needing to be better on the forecheck. He’s coming in as the left winger in transition in this clip.
You can see here that as the puck drifts towards the boards Martin is caught puck watching and shifting with the puck out of the center of the ice and into the other winger’s lane as #12 crosses in front of him and circles back up the ice. The pass gets through Martin’s area and leads to an odd-man rush going the other way.
This was probably the worst moment Martin had over the course of four games. He doesn’t come onto the screen until the ten second mark where his forward is directing him on where he should be.
If you pause it at the ten second mark you can see four blue jerseys supporting the puck and suppressing the dangerous areas out front. Now pause it at 11 seconds. All of a sudden Martin appears but is covering the point. He creates an overload at an unnecessary point in the defensive structure and leaves a cross-ice pass to an open player in a dangerous area. This led directly to a goal.
Seb has watched the Kitchener Rangers all year and has been a huge proponent of Mitchell Martin’s development throughout the season. Martin has moved up through the lineup to where he was playing in their top 6 in the playoffs and seeing significant power play time. This was reflected in his point production as he was a point per game player with seven goals during Kitchener’s run.
Without a draft year he also doesn’t have the data set nor the film to compare the development between his draft year and his post-draft year season. It’s going to be something that we all look back in hindsight with the OHL and how COVID impacted this class in particular.
I (Austin) see a player that has to get his skating and pace to an NHL level. I do believe he has some versatility to his game to project as a bottom 6 winger, however he’s going to have to improve his defensive zone awareness and skating mechanics to earn an NHL roster spot. I thought the best part of his game was on the penalty kill and how aggressive he was suppressing space and trying to create offense on the PK. He could also find a role in that capacity in the NHL
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Austin Garrett and Sebastian Jackson. If you would like to follow Austin on Twitter, his handle is @BMaster716. If you would like to follow Sebastian on Twitter, his handle is @SebJackson90.
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