On Tuesday, the Minnesota Wild signed undrafted free agent Mitchell Chaffee to a two-year entry-level contract. Chaffee has spent the last three years playing collegiate hockey with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Minutemen. This past season, Chaffee was a co-captain for the Minutemen and appeared in 30 regular-season games. The Rockford, Michigan native managed to tally 16 goals and 13 assists. Chaffee’s NHLe (his NHL equivalency) from last season was 31 points. He was one point off from being a point per game player. In addition, Chaffee had missed four games with an upper-body injury in February, but he managed to come back into the lineup before the COVID-19 outbreak had shut down NCAA play.
There are a couple of things to note about Chaffee. He played with several different centermen in the first few months of the season. With Kurt Keats, Jacob Pritchard and Brett Boeing graduating after the 2018-19 season, the Minutemen had experimented with their lines quite a bit. That had impacted the lines quite a bit and led to a rotation of centermen for Chaffee. Regardless of the line changes, Chaffee was consistent all season long with his offensive production and managed to record four multi-goal games and nine multi-point games. In terms of Chaffee’s presence on the Minutemen special teams unit, former NHL assistant coach (Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks) and current head coach of the Minutemen deployed Chaffee on his top power-play unit. Occasionally, Carvel would opt to utilize Chaffee on his penalty kill.
ANOTHER HOCKEY EAST PROSPECT
The Minnesota Wild have a bit of familiarity with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst college hockey program. In the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the Minnesota Wild selected goaltending prospect Filip Lindberg in the seventh round. In addition, the Wild have six prospects playing in the Hockey East conference. Matthew Boldy, Jack McBain and Marshall Warren play for Jerry York’s Boston College Eagles. Vladislav Firstov just completed his freshman season with the University of Connecticut Huskies. Bryce Misley recently finished his junior year with the University of Vermont Catamounts. So, the Wild are quite comfortable with grabbing Hockey East talent.
TIME FOR SOME SHIFT WORK
With the Minnesota Wild inking Chaffee to an entry-level contract, I decided to look at four of his shifts from his last regular-season game (March 5, 2020) against the University of Vermont Catamounts.
In Chaffee’s first shift of the game, he does not have control of the puck at any point throughout the shift, but there are portions of the shift that we can comment on. Early on in the shift, Chaffee hovers between the blue line and the faceoff hash marks as he looks for space to get open incase his teammates along the boards manage to pick up the puck off the forecheck. At approximately the 18:17 mark in the first period, Chaffee applies pressure on the Vermont forward who is chasing the puck that went behind the Minutemen net. Once the Minutemen enter the offensive zone, we see Chaffee along with his two fellow forwards form a triangle as they look to run the cycle.
In his second shift of the game, we can see Chaffee aggressive on the forecheck from the get-go. His teammate Oliver Chau had an interception in the neutral zone which silenced a Catamounts rush, however, the Catamounts were persistent and fought for the puck in their own zone which led to another rush up the ice. Since most of the action in the Catamounts zone was along the half wall and the Minutemen had two forwards along the half wall, Chaffee sat near the crease around the Catamounts defensemen in case one of the defensemen had received the puck from one of their teammates. Chaffee could have rushed to the boards to help his forwards maintain possession, but that would have left the Minutemen vulnerable in case Vermont acquired the puck and one of the Vermont defensemen got their hands on the puck.
Chaffee’s third shift of the game is on the power play. He wins the faceoff draw and quickly moves to the slot. At the 13:59 mark in the first period, Chaffee receives a pass from Chau and quickly feeds the puck to Reed Lebster, who appears to be rushing towards the crease. After the Minutemen lose control of the cycle, Chaffee along with his teammates look to regain the puck in their own zone. Minutemen defenseman Matthew Kessel (no relation to Arizona Coyotes forward Phil Kessel nor Metropolitan Riveters forward Amanda Kessel) captures the puck in the Minutemen zone and feeds the puck to Chaffee. At this point, Chaffee moves the puck from zone to zone. He showcases solid edge work when weaving around traffic. With 18 seconds left on the power play, the Catamounts are deploying a four-man box. Chaffee loses the attention of his opponents when he dangles the puck from backhand to forehand. With no one in front of him except for the Catamounts goaltender, Chaffee attempts a wrist shot glove side, but the shot misses the mark.
The fourth shift starts out with New York Rangers prospect Zac Jones pinching after the draw and completing a pass to Chaffee. Once Chaffee since Jones pinching, he jumps towards the blue line to hold the fort. After receiving the pass from Jones, Chaffee goes right up to the edge of the perimeter and fires a shot through traffic. With a Minutemen forward sitting in front of the Catamounts net, it appears that Chaffee was hoping that his initial shot would lead to a rebound. After the shot attempt, Jones goes back towards the half wall and Chaffee retreats to the blue line, but shortly after the two of them switch and Jones fires a cross-ice pass back to the defense partner.
SCOUTING REPORT AND HIS POTENTIAL
Chaffee has potential as a third-line forward in the National Hockey League. He has shown great power forward traits throughout his time at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He can be quite effective on the forecheck. In addition, there are positive signs in terms of how Chaffee reads the game. He seems to always be aware of the puck and his teammates in each zone. When needed, he will show off his stick-handling as he looks to evade traffic and create space for himself. In terms of his skating, he is not the strongest skater, but he gets the job done.
In all likelihood, Chaffee will be playing with the Wild’s AHL affiliate, the Iowa Wild next season. He will have an opportunity to work with Iowa Wild head coach Tim Army, who is quite familiar with developing undrafted collegiate free agents. Last season, he had the opportunity to help develop Nico Sturm (former Clarkson University forward). With a couple of seasons in the AHL, Chaffee could potentially be NHL ready. We shall wait and see.
Thank you for checking out my post. You can follow me on Twitter @JoshTessler_ for more prospect updates.