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Jan 18, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Zack Mitchell has morphed into key cog in Storm lineup

Guelph Mercury

Welcome to Zack Mitchell 2.0.

No longer the player that drives coaches crazy. No longer the player that leaves fans frustrated. No longer the player that leaves just about everyone wanting more.

Somewhere, somehow, something clicked. Perhaps it was a conscious decision, perhaps personal maturity or maybe it's what happens when you're part of a team that has the chance to achieve something special.

Mitchell has been a different player this season.

He is on pace to tie his personal best with a 75 point season and has teamed up with Kerby Rychel and Robby Fabbri to be the team's undisputed No. 1 line. He takes faceoffs, he's out there in late game situations.

Perhaps most importantly is the improvement people have noticed in the dressing room. Not only has his overall game improved, but so has his attitude.

Storm coach Scott Walker, who readily admits that in his first season and a half coaching the Storm he didn't quite mesh with Mitchell (coach speak for "he drove me crazy"), has nothing but praise for his veteran winger.

"I don't know if it was just a personality conflict, but we just didn't see eye-to-eye at first," Walker said.

"But we had a real good talk before the season and he told me 'coach, I'm over not getting drafted and all that stuff. I want to work and I want to win. I want to be a winner.' To his credit, I've never seen a kid be more true to his word."

As Walker says, it's easy to talk the talk, much harder to walk the walk.

The Storm coach said it was also a learning experience for him, realizing there are different lines of communication and that players need to be dealt with differently sometimes.

"He made me a better coach," Walker said.

For years Mitchell was the most frustrating man in a Storm uniform.

Not that Mitchell, an affable type with a quiet disposition, was the type of person to bring scorn upon himself. Quite the opposite: personally, he was easy to like.

The problem was that on the ice he continually left people wanting more.

He came into the league as a highly-touted scorer. Originally a fourth round draft pick, that was more due to the fact he was committed to go the NCAA route with Harvard. People don't usually turn their backs on Harvard.

Scoring 12 goals in 120 games his first two seasons didn't exactly make him a fan favourite.

In his third season in the league he broke out with 37 goals and many felt Mitchell had finally arrived, but he followed that up with 22 goals last season.

While 30 goals is a solid target this year, the improvements to his overall game and attitude have made him a key cog in this season's machine.

Walker has noticed. He hopes NHL teams also notice the development of the undrafted Mitchell.

"There isn't an NHL team that I don't talk about to about Zack Mitchell. He's just been a real treat this year and it's all him."

Tony Saxon covers the Guelph Storm for the Mercury. Follow him on Twitter at #SaxonOnTheStorm and his Saxon on the Storm blog at www.guelphmercury.com. He can be reached at tsaxon@guelphmercury.com .

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