New Blackhawks assistant Tomas Mitell excited for ‘good challenge’ in NHL

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The NHL is experiencing a revolutionary transition in speed and skill, the Blackhawks’ roster is in the midst of a youth takeover of its own, and the franchise now sports an entire coaching staff under 40 years of age.

Tomas Mitell, 38, was hired Thursday as a new assistant coach under 34-year-old boss Jeremy Colliton, joining Sheldon Brookbank, also 38.

“We are [training] a whole new generation of hockey players, and I think they are a little bit different, in a good way,” Mitell told the Sun-Times. “It’s going to be exciting.”

Mitell and Colliton coached together in Sweden in 2016-17, guiding Mora to a league-best record in the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second division of hockey. Mitell said the two had “good chemistry, both working with the team and outside the ice time.”

Colliton came to Rockford the following season, while Mitell became the head coach at AIK, which he led to third- and first-place finishes in the 14-team league the past two years.

But the two kept in touch, and after the Hawks parted ways with former assistant Don Granato (who, of note, is 51) last month, more serious talks began.

“We’ve been sharing ideas and things like that, so I think we have kind of the same idea how we want to play the game and also leadership-wise,” Mitell said. “We’ve been talking a little bit back and forth, and he asked me if I would be interested [in this job], and of course it’s a great opportunity and good challenge.”

It’s been a very Swedish Thursday for the Hawks, which also officially signed winger Anton Wedin, a 26-year-old Swedish pro league veteran, earlier in the day. Wedin’s addition gives the team seven Swedes on NHL contracts — including Erik Gustafsson, Carl Dahlstrom and Gustav Forsling — with the chance to up that number to eight if Marcus Kruger is re-signed.

Now, the Hawks’ host of Swedish players have a Swedish coach to work with.

Mitell said he and Colliton haven’t yet determined exactly what his role and responsibilities will be on the new staff, though they already have “an idea.” But his overall coaching philosophy isn’t likely to change.

“I try to help [players] with what they need as individuals to get better, and it’s not the same for everyone,” he said. “Of course, on the ice, the team needs to be on the same page, but how they develop as individuals will be different for each guy.”

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