the University of Denver Pioneers will welcome nine talented freshmen to campus for the 2017-8 season. Ranked as a top-five recruiting class in the country, the 2017-18 freshman class appears to be stocked with potential. Between now and the start of the Pioneers’ season, Mile High Hockey will be profiling each of the incoming freshmen and examining their potential impact on the 2017-18 season and beyond.
Griffin Mendel confirmed his commitment to DU for the 2017-18 season in February 2016, while the 16-year-old was in his first season with the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League.
Mendel, a ‘99-born defensemen out of Kelowna, BC, spent two full seasons in the BCHL. His scoring totals were par for the course for a defensive-first blue liner, a role that he can expect to maintain in the NCAA.
For what it’s worth, Mendel in 2016 exceeded half of his regular season scoring output in a 21-game stretch of playoff hockey in the BCHL. He also represented Canada in the U-17 World Hockey Challenge back in 2015, in which the Canadians won gold.
Mendel figures to be a stay-at-home defenseman with DU, where he will use his college-ready 6’4”, 209-pound frame to clear out the defensive-zone corners and defend the slot area. He also saw time on the Vees’ penalty kill and could eventually step into that role with the Pioneers as well.
A scouting report written by Marshall Mackinder at HockeyNow in July spells out the defensive skill seen in Mendel by the Pioneers.
Penticton defenceman Griffin Mendel will not be a big point producer moving forward, but there may not be a better stay at home defenceman in the BCHL. Mendel shuts down opposing top lines, has a long reach that he uses to keep shooters off balance and to the outside. He is a huge player at 6’4, 217 and uses every bit of that size on the ice. Closes off gaps well and leaves no room for speedy wingers to get through. Clears his net well and leaves his goalie a clear look at the play. Good first pass out of the zone and will follow his pass and get himself into good position defensively.
DU lists seven defensemen on their roster, and Mendel is one of two blue-liners in the incoming class. The big question for the 2017-18 group will be in regards to replacing Hobey Baker-winner Will Butcher.
Mendel is a solid prospect with the size to step in and see ice time early in his NCAA career. Other players recruited by DU out of the BCHL have shown themselves capable in the NCAA, including current assistant captain defenseman Adam Plant. Mendel will not reproduce Butcher’s output as a two-way defenseman, but ought to serve as an imposing and disciplined force on the blue line as soon as this season.