|Born||April 23, 1977 |
Port McNeill, BC, CAN
|Height||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Weight||208 lb (94 kg; 14 st 12 lb)|
|Los Angeles Kings|
New Jersey Devils
|NHL Draft||199th overall, 1996|
New Jersey Devils
Willie Mitchell (born William Reid Mitchell on April 23, 1977) is a Canadian professional ice hockey defenceman currently playing with the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League (NHL). He is known primarily as a physical defensive defenceman.
Willie played Junior A in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) and Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL), before joining the college ranks with the Clarkson Golden Knights of ECAC Hockey in 1997. He won an ECAC championship with Clarkson in 1999, while also earning playoff MVP and ECAC First Team All-Star honours.
Selected by the New Jersey Devils in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, Willie played two seasons with the Albany River Rats of the American Hockey League (AHL) while earning limited playing time with the Devils over two seasons.
In 2001, he was traded to the Minnesota Wild where he played four seasons before a brief stint with the Dallas Stars. He signed with the Vancouver Canucks in the 2006 off-season and was named the team's top defenceman twice, in 2008 and 2009.
After four seasons in Vancouver, Willie signed with Los Angeles in August of 2010. Internationally, he has represented Team Canada once at the 2004 World Championships, capturing a gold medal.
- 1 Playing Career
- 2 Career Statistics
- 3 Awards & Achievements
- 4 International Play
- 5 Playing Style
- 6 Personal Life
Early Playing Career
Willie played minor hockey as a winger with the North Island Eagles and won back-to-back double-A provincial titles in Pee Wee and Bantam with the club.
Willie left home when he was 15 years old after being recruited to play for Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, a high school in Wilcox, Saskatchewan.
It was there that Willie switched from wing to defence. He played with the Notre Dame Hounds' midget team of the Saskatchewan Midget Hockey League (SMHL) and recorded 15 points over 31 games in 1993–94.
From there, Willie earned an athletic scholarship with Clarkson University in New York.
Junior and college hockey (1994–99)
As a junior hockey player, Willie began in the BCHL with the Kelowna Spartans in 1994–95, recording 11 points over 42 games. After one season with Kelowna, he joined the Melfort Mustangs of the SJHL.
Following his first season with Melfort in 1995–96, Willie was selected by the New Jersey Devils in the eighth round, 199th overall, in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. He returned to Melfort for a second season and recorded 56 points in 64 games to earn the Top Defenceman Award and SJHL First All-Star Team honours.
Beginning in 1997–98, Willie began two seasons of college hockey with Clarkson University Golden Knights of the ECAC. In his freshman year, he recorded 26 points over 34 games, fourth among league defencemen and was named co-Rookie of the Year with Clarkson teammate Erik Cole.
Willie also earned ECAC All-Rookie and ECAC Second All-Star honours. Clarkson advanced to the ECAC Tournament final against Princeton Tigers, but lost by a 5–4 score in double overtime.
The following season, Willie led all Golden Knights defencemen in scoring with 29 points (10 goals and 19 assists) and a plus-13 rating in 34 games. He finished the season with a league player of the week recognition on March 1, 1999.
As Clarkson met Princeton in the 1999 ECAC semi-final, Willie scored the game winning goal with a slap shot from centre ice with three seconds remaining in regulation.
Clarkson went on to defeat the St. Lawrence Skating Saints 3–2 in the final to capture the ECAC championship. Willie earned tournament MVP honours and was also named to the ECAC First All-Star Team and NCAA East Second All-American Team.
New Jersey Devils (1999–2001)
Following his sophomore season with Clarkson, Willie decided to forego his final two seasons of college eligilibity to turn professional in the New Jersey Devils system. He played the final six games of the 1998–99 AHL season with the Devils' minor league affiliate, the Albany River Rats, registering a goal and three assists.
In his first Devils' training camp in September of 1999, Willie broke a finger in his left hand during a fight in a rookie game against the Boston Bruins. The injury required three pins to set the finger in place.
Although sidelined, the Devils signed him to a rookie contract in September of 1999. After recovering, he was assigned to the River Rats. Willie received a call-up late in the season and made his NHL debut on March 27, 2000, in a 5–2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Willie stayed with the Devils for a week before being returned to the AHL. He finished the 1999–2000 season with 19 points over 63 games with the River Rats and no points in two games with the Devils.
The following season, Willie made the Devils' opening lineup, but was a regular healthy scratch.
After appearing in 11 games, Willie was returned to the AHL on November 22, 2000. He registered his first NHL point, an assist, during his initial stint.
After injuries to Devils defencemen Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski, Willie was recalled on February 10, 2001.
The following month, after having been sent back down to the AHL, Willie was traded to the Minnesota Wild on March 4, 2001, in exchange for defenceman Sean O'Donnell.
Minnesota Wild (2000-2005)
Following the trade, Willie became a full-time NHLer, playing in 17 games with the Wild to finish the season. He completed his rookie NHL season with a goal and 10 assists over 33 games between the Devils and Wild.
In his first full season with the Wild in 2001–02, Willie recorded three goals and 13 points in 68 games, while earning $550,000 from his initial rookie contract with the Devils. He missed 14 games due to three separate shoulder, groin and wrist injuries.
Establishing himself as a top-four defenceman on the team, paired with Brad Bombardir, Willie ranked third on the team in average ice time with 21:25 minutes per game.
The following season, Willie improved to a third-ranked plus-13 on the team after going minus-16 the previous season. He went on to help the club make a run in the 2003 playoffs to the semi-finals, leading the team with a plus-5 rating in 18 post-season games.
Willie suffered a cheekbone injury during the first round against the Colorado Avalanche that required him to wear a fully visored helmet for the remainder of the playoffs.
After defeating the Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks in the first two rounds, the Wild were eliminated in four games by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the semi-finals.
In the off-season, he was re-signed to a one-year contract by the Wild on August 11, 2003. Willie recorded 14 points over 70 games in 2003–04, while leading the Wild with a plus-12 rating and ranking second in average ice time at 22:35 minutes per game. Minnesota failed to qualify for the playoffs.
On June 30, 2004, the Wild tendered Willie a qualifying offer, but he later filed for arbitration on July 7, 2004. The two sides avoided arbitration by agreeing on a one-year, $1.775 million deal on August 12, 2004.
However, due to the NHL lockout, Willie was inactive in 2004–05. With NHL play set to resume for 2005–06, he re-signed with the Wild to another one-year, $1 million contract on August 9, 2005.
In December of 2005, Willie was named team captain as part of the Wild's monthly rotating captaincy (he was then succeeded by Brian Rolston in February of 2006).
Dallas Stars (2005-06)
At the 2005–06 trade deadline, Willie was traded away to the Dallas Stars as a rental player in exchange for defencemen Martin Skoula and Shawn Belle on March 9, 2006.
Willie closed the season playing 16 games and one playoff round with Dallas before becoming an unrestricted free agent in the off-season.
Vancouver Canucks (2006–2010)
On July 1, 2006, the Vancouver Canucks signed Willie to a four-year, $14 million contract. Canucks general manager Dave Nonis had previously attempted to acquire him at the previous season's trade deadline before he was sent to Dallas.
Early in the 2006–07 season, Willie suffered a concussion on October 23 and missed nine games. He then missed 11 more games due to a recurring groin injury in February and March of 2007. He finished his first season with the Canucks recording a goal and 11 points in 62 games.
Willie's 4:57 minutes of average shorthanded ice time per game ranked third in the league behind Derian Hatcher and Adam Foote. He helped the team to the second round of the 2007 playoffs, where they were defeated by the Anaheim Ducks in five games.
During his second season with Vancouver, Willie missed ten games with a fractured vertebra. The injury was sustained on December 31, 2007 in a loss to the Calgary Flames while trying to dodge a check.
However, Willie continued to play with the injury for nine games afterwards. He recorded two goals and 12 points, while leading the team with 108 blocked shots and 1,646:20 minutes in total ice time.
At the end of the 2007–08 season, he was awarded his first Babe Pratt Trophy as the Canucks' top defenceman.
With the departure of long-time Canucks captain Markus Naslund to free agency in the 2008 off-season, Willie was considered a leading candidate for captaincy. The Canucks instead appointed team MVP Roberto Luongo as the first goaltender to be a captain since 1947–48 on September 30, 2008.
Due to Luongo's limitations as a goaltender, Willie was designated the captain's traditional role of disputing calls by the officials and relaying messages to the coach.
During the subsequent 2008–09 season, Willie recorded career-highs with three goals, 20 assists, 23 points and a team-best plus-29 rating, earning his second consecutive Babe Pratt Trophy.
Willie added two assists and led all Canucks in average ice time at 24:12 minutes per game in the post-season. He helped the Canucks advance to the second round, where they were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
Early on in the 2009–10 season, Willie delivered an open-ice hit that concussed Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews in the two teams' first game against each other since the 2009 playoffs.
Willie had just exited the penalty box when he caught Toews with his head down receiving a pass in the neutral zone; the hit was deemed legal as Willie checked Toews with his shoulder. Toews was sidelined for six games as a result.
Later on in the season, Willie suffered a concussion himself, receiving a hit from opposing forward Evgeni Malkin causing his head to hit the end boards, during a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 16.
Willie was sidelined for the remainder of the season with post-concussion syndrome, finishing with 12 points and a plus-13 rating in 48 games. Unsure if the injury had ended his career, he later recalled his subsequent recovery as "the toughest year of [his] life."
Not speaking to the media until after the Canucks were eliminated in the playoffs, he expressed criticism towards both Malkin for the hit resulting in his concussion and to NHL Senior Vice President Colin Campbell for not taking any disciplinary action. He denounced Campbell for being "inconsistent...hand[ing] down suspensions and fines on result [instead of the nature of a hit]," as Willie's injury was not immediately apparent following the game.
Willie's four-year deal with the Canucks expired on July 1, 2010 and he became an unrestricted free agent.
Willie was still involved in negotiations with Vancouver to re-sign, but concerns over his head injury, as well as the new defensive acquisitions of Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis in the off-season factored against the possibility of remaining with the Canucks.
Los Angeles Kings (2010–present)
On August 25, 2010, Wille signed a two-year deal worth $3.5 million per season with the Los Angeles Kings. He had interest from several other teams, including the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks.
The Canucks were also offering a one-year contract between $1.8 and $2 million, but were not willing to match the Kings' deal. Willie expressed disappointment in leaving the Canucks, but stated he was "looking forward to going to a team which, I get the feeling, is really passionate about having me there."
Willie began the season on a defensive pairing with Drew Doughty. Nearly a month into the campaign, he notched his first goal as a King, scoring short handed against the Dallas Stars in a 5–2 victory on October 28, 2010.
In November of 2010, Willie sustained a wrist injury during a game against the Nashville Predators, sidelining him for 12 games.
After recovering, Willie suffered a knee injury, keeping him from another 11 games. Later in the season, during a game against the Phoenix Coyotes, on March 3, 2011, Willie was hit in the face by a shot from opposing forward Kyle Turris requiring 53 stitches.
Willie did not miss any additional games, however. He finished the season with 5 goals and 5 assists over 57 games, ranking third in average ice time per contest with the Kings.
Willie added a goal and an assist in six playoff games as the Kings were eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the first round. On February 24, 2012, he signed a 2-Year contract extension with the Kings.
In the 2012 playoffs, Willie helped the Kings defeat the Vancouver Canucks in the first round, the St. Louis Blues in the semifinals winning four games straight and the Phoenix Coyotes in the Conference Finals.
The Kings made the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1993 and defeated the New Jersey Devils; this also marked Willie's first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. He was the second player after team captain Dustin Brown to hoist the cup after the win.
During the 2012–13 NHL lockout, Willie began having knee problems, requiring a first surgery to clean up debris and a second surgery after re-injuring the knee during rehabilitation prior to the 2012–13 King's training camp.
Willie was out for the remainder of the 2012-13 NHL season and questionable for the 2013–14 NHL season although as of the start of the season, he is considered to be completely rehabilitated, and scheduled for regular duty alongside his defense partner Slava Voynov.
|1993–94||Notre Dame Midget Hounds||SMHL||31||4||11||15||—||81||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|1998–99||Albany River Rats||AHL||6||1||3||4||3||29||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|1999–00||Albany River Rats||AHL||63||5||14||19||-4||71||5||1||2||3||0||4|
|1999–00||New Jersey Devils||NHL||2||0||0||0||1||0||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|2000–01||Albany River Rats||AHL||41||3||13||16||2||94||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|2000–01||New Jersey Devils||NHL||16||0||2||2||0||29||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|2010–11||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||57||5||5||10||4||21||6||1||1||2||1||4|
|2011–12||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||76||5||19||24||20||44||20||1||2||3||7||16|
Awards & Achievements
|First All-Star Team||1997|
|All-ECAC Hockey Rookie Team||1997–98|
|All-ECAC Hockey Second Team||1997–98|
|ECAC Player of the Week||March 1, 1999|
|NCAA East Second All-American Team||1999|
|All-ECAC Hockey First Team||1998–99|
|ECAC Playoff MVP||1999|
|ECAC championship (Clarkson University)||1999|
|Stanley Cup Champion||2012|
|Babe Pratt Trophy (best defenceman)||2008|
Willie has made one international appearance for Canada in his career. After the Minnesota Wild failed to qualify for the 2004 playoffs, he was named to the national team for the 2004 World Championships in the Czech Republic.
Willie was joined on the squad by Wild teammate Nick Schultz in the first group of players chosen by general manager Jim Nill on April 5, 2004.
Appearing in nine games, Willie helped Canada to a gold medal, defeating Sweden 5–3 in the final.
Willie plays in the style of a stay-at-home defenceman. While with the Canucks, he established himself as the their top shutdown defenceman, being matched up against opposing teams' best players and spending a lot of time on the penalty kill.
Willie had usually formed a defensive pairing on the Canucks with the often offensive-minded Kevin Bieksa. Bieksa has credited Willie with teaching him to be more aware of game situations before jumping into the rush.
In order to defend effectively, Willie opts to use a longer-than-usual hockey stick.
Prior to a game against the Calgary Flames on February 17, 2009, opposing head coach Mike Keenan accused Willie of playing with an illegal hockey stick. Willie responded by asserting he uses the league maximum length at 63 inches.
Willie is also known for his leadership qualities, serving as an alternate captain on the Canucks.
During his tenure with the Wild, Willie was named captain once for the months of December of 2005 and January of 2006 as part of the Wild's rotating captaincy system.
Willie's parents are Reid & Nadija Mitchell. He has a sister named Chantal. His father works as a heavy-duty mechanic with Western Forest Products while his mother is a Croatian-born immigrant who works as a terminal service agent for B.C. Ferries.
Willie's grandfather, Les Mitchell played amateur senior hockey and once earned a tryout with the New York Rangers during the Original Six-era. He was born and raised in Port McNeill, British Columbia, a small logging town on Vancouver Island.
Willie grew up working on the docks in his hometown unloading fish and cleaning equipment. He first began skating when he was 4 years old. Growing up as a Vancouver Canucks fan, his father would take him across to the mainland to see games at the Pacific Coliseum.
On August 17, 2006, Willie married his wife Megan (a native of Minnesota) in Napa Valley, California. They reside in the Yaletown neighbourhood in downtown Vancouver while returning to Willie's hometown of Port McNeill during the summer where he fishes avidly.
Willie is an active philanthropist around the Port McNeill community. In 2004, he hosted the first Willie Mitchell Classic, a celebrity golf tournament to raise scholarship funds for high school students around his hometown.
WIllie has also regularly donated game-used equipment to fundraise for his former minor hockey team, the North Island Eagles.
In the summer of 2009, Willie threw the first pitch at a Seattle Mariners game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington.