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Mendel Making Big Strides in NHL Draft Year

By Marshall Mackinder on February 10, 2017

Penticton Vees defenseman Griffin Mendel is on his way to Denver University in the Fall and NHL scouts have their eyes on him for this summer's NHL Draft in Chicago. (Garrett James photo)

Typically, when a Western Hockey League team makes a draft selection in the first round, it goes without saying that the draft pick has committed to playing in the league. However, Kelowna native Griffin Mendel had other options and chose that he wanted to pursue a NCAA scholarship and committed to the powerhouse Penticton Vees in the BCHL.

Mendel, who turns 18 on February 18th, was selected 11th overall in the 2014 WHL Draft by the Kootenay Ice but quickly made up his mind to play for Penticton and sign a letter of intent with the University of Denver. The 6'4" and 215 pound defenceman played for the Okanagan Hockey Academy (CCSHL) and won a championship with the prep white team. He then made his BCHL debut during the 2014-15 season dressing in two games for the Vees, registering no points and two penalty minutes. 

More recently, during the 2015-16 season, Mendel played alongside first round NHL draft picks Dante Fabbro and Tyson Jost while accumulating two goals and 14 points in 52 games and added an assist in 11 postseason games. He also won a gold medal for Team Canada White in the World Under-17 Hockey challenge in Fort St. John, B.C and registered assists in six games.

Mendel may not be putting up the points this season, but there may not be a better stay-at-home defenceman in the BCHL. Mendel is also receiving top minutes on the blue line and is a key penalty killer for the Vees, who appear to be set for another run at the Fred Page Cup.

"Griffin plays a shutdown role against other teams’ top lines and does an effective job using his size and strength to his advantage," Vees President, Head Coach and General Manager Fred Harbinson said.

Mendel has a long reach that he uses to keep shooters off balance and to the outside and he also closes off gaps well and leaves no room for speedy wingers to get through. He does a good job of making sure his goaltender has a clear view of the play with no bodies in front his net. He has a good first pass out of the zone and will follow his pass and get himself into good position defensively. 

Mendel is currently a steady riser in the views of National Hockey League scouts and is expected to be a mid-round pick at this summer's NHL Draft in Chicago. He is only one of two BCHL skaters to be ranked by National Hockey League Central Scouting at the midterm rankings along with Kale Howarth of the Trail Smoke Eaters.

"He has shown massive improvement and growth from this point last season. Has a rocket of a shot from the point and skates well for a big kid." Harbinson added. 

It didn't take long for Mendel to make good on his choice to pursue his hockey future in the NCAA when he committed to play for the Denver Pioneers starting in the fall. The Pioneers play in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) and are second all-time with seven NCAA Championships. 

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By Marshall Mackinder| February 10, 2017
Categories:  Junior
Keywords:  Penticton Vees

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