Habs Top 25 Under 25: #20 Mark Mitera

With a glutton of talented, offensive minded, right handed defensemen in the system, the Montreal Canadiens knew they no longer had use for Mathieu Carle. Fortunately he's played well enough in his injury plagued four AHL seasons that the Anaheim Ducks were willing to part with a highly touted, but thus far underwhelming prospect in Mark Mitera; a large, defensive minded, left handed defenseman.

Mitera happens to have been drafted one spot above David Fischer, the notorious 1st round bust of the Montreal Canadiens from the 2006 draft. The two of them share in the notoriety of being the highest drafted players in 2006 to not yet lace up for a single NHL game. However before you all think "why did we trade for this guy then", it's important to understand that his career path has been nothing like that of Fischer's, he just hasn't made the NHL yet.

Mitera has made slow, but steady progress through four NCAA seasons, but only played his first full AHL season this past year due in large part to injures.

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STRENGTHS: Mitera's reputation is that of a bruiser. At 6'3" and 213lbs he's a big man, and he has a mean streak to go along with his size. Known as a strong skater when he played for the University of Michigan, and his stick checking has received praise from most scouts who have written about him. The Hockey News writes that Mitera is well aware of his own limitations and plays a simple game, so as to minimize them.

There are conflicting reports about his passing skills. While The Hockey News says he needs to work on his passing and decision making, Chris Boucher's one game scouting report on Mitera revealed that he completed all of his passes in the offensive and defensive zones, while completing half of them in neutral ice. Obviously one game is a small sample size, but it is encouraging to see a player not known for his passing ability surpass expectations on any given night.

WEAKNESSES: It's clear that Mitera is not an offensively talented player. He's managed 11 goals in the last 4 years of hockey, 6 goals in the AHL in 121 games including the playoffs. So he's not going to be an offensive dynamo. Chris Boucher raised questions about his agility, noting that stopping and starting was not a strength, and neither was criss-crossing while skating backwards. It's very possible that he could be vulnerable to turn-stiling from fast, skilled hockey players.

The Syracuse Crunch, whom Mitera played for last season, weren't a good team by any stretch, but for a defensive defenseman his statistics were not great. From Boucher's scouting report we learned that Mitera was playing on the second wave of the penalty kill for the Crunch, so unless he was dealing with a minor injury we can assume that he wasn't drawing the top end defensive assignments for the team, yet he had the second worst plus/minus rating on the team among the players who played the full season in the AHL at -15.

FUTURE: While the limitations to Mitera's game are obvious and concerning, he remains in an advantageous position within the Canadiens depth chart. Being a large framed, defensive minded, left handed defender puts him in out of competition range of players like Subban and Weber if there's need of an AHL injury call up. Those players won't be taking up his ice time should he be needed. In fact it could be argued that if Hal Gill suffers an injury, Mitera would be the most NHL ready sub for him in the Habs system. His toughest competition for a spot of this nature comes from Hal Gill (who's career may be over soon) and Jarred Tinordi, who is still years away from NHL competition.

As it stands however, Mitera will be looked upon to significantly improve his defensive numbers on a strong Hamilton Bulldogs team.

#21: Gabriel Dumont #20: Mark Mitera #19:Magnus Nygren
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