From Latvia with Love – Mareks Mitens – Draft Sleeper

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By Dan Silver (@dsilver88)

Love Affair with the World Juniors

I absolutely love watching the World Junior Championships – always a great opportunity to see how many of the best already-drafted and draft-eligible prospects perform on the big stage.

In 2016, I got to watch Ivan Provorov for the first time and was mesmerized by his smooth skating, superior decision-making, and ability to come through in the clutch. It was when I started to realize just how special a player the Flyers had drafted.

It’s become one of my favorite winter traditions – taking a look at the best young hockey players in the world, and finding a few sleepers along the way!

 

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Enter Mitens

This year, as I was watching Flyers prospects Philippe Myers and Carter Hart lead Canada to a 10-2 pummeling of Latvia, my ears perked up when I heard the announcer say “mittens.”

I mean, who doesn’t love a nice warm pair of mittens, especially during the harsh, cold winter months.

Turns out that the Latvian goalie was named Mareks Mitens – and he’s pretty damn good.

With a decent frame at 6’1″, Mitens is an excellent positional goalie who also boasts very good athleticism.

In the first relegation game of this year’s World Juniors, he nearly backstopped his outgunned Latvian team to a huge upset against Finland. Making an astounding 43 saves on 45 shots, Mitens was sensational, but his team couldn’t generate enough offense and lost 2-1.

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Dominant in Aston, PA

Mitens spent the majority of the 2016-17 season playing only 15 miles from the Wells Fargo Center.

He was the starting goalie for the Aston Rebels of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), one of the top two junior circuits in the United States.

And he excelled.

During the regular season, Mitens led the NAHL in wins (31), goals-against-average (1.63) and shutouts (11), and had a terrific 0.925 save percentage. The eleven shutouts set a new NAHL single season record. He didn’t let up in the playoffs going 6-2 with a 2.00 GAA and a 0.915 save percentage.

Headed to Lake Superior State

In April, it was announced that Mitens will be heading to the very successful Lake Superior State program this coming fall. It should be an excellent opportunity for the young netminder to continue improving his game.

“I’m so happy for Mareks,” stated Rebels head coach Joe Coombs in this article. “He is one heck of a goaltender and his compete level is through the roof. He is a great teammate. Lake State is getting a quality person and hockey player.”

Draft Prospects for Mitens

While there doesn’t appear to be a slam dunk 1st-round goalie – Boston University’s Jake Oettinger is tops on most lists and expected to go early in Round 2 – the 2017 NHL Draft is rife with promising goalie prospects.

Given the facts that Flyers GM Ron Hextall has drafted four goalies in his two years at the helm, and that the organization has 11 picks in the seven rounds of this year’s draft, it seems likely that the team will at least be adding one netminder.

The mock drafts have Mitens going anywhere from the 4th round to not being drafted. If I had to guess, I could see the Flyers drafting a goalie with one of their three consecutive picks in the 4th round.

I’ll once again point out that Mitens played most of this season a 20-minute drive from the Wells Fargo Center.

And I’m selfishly hoping that the Flyers find a shiny new pair of Mitens in this year’s draft!

**Photo Credits – NAHL.com

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