There's no way getting around the fact that tonight will be a special night for Rangers forward John Mitchell.
A native of Oakville, ON, Mitchell will have about a dozen family and friends at this evening's Rangers-Maple Leafs contest at Air Canada Centre. And then there is the small fact that Mitchell will be facing his former team for the first time in Toronto since they traded him to the Rangers last February.
"Sure it is special," admitted Mitchell following the team's morning skate. "Obviously I used to play for that team, and this is where I started my career in the NHL. It certainly is special to me to come back here, and it's close to home, too. That makes it even that much more special. Coming into this room as opposed to (the home side) is different, but it still has the same look and the same feel out there (on the ice) like it did when I played here. I am excited to play this one (tonight)."
Mitchell was a fifth round pick of the Leafs back in 2003 and spent three full years playing for the Toronto Marlies of the AHL before appearing in 159 games with the Maple Leafs from 2008-09 up until his trade to New York. He recorded 20 goals and 55 points as a Maple Leaf, and has notched 2-6-8 numbers in 23 games with the Rangers this season.
"The (Maple Leafs) were my favorite team growing up, and Dougie Gilmour was my favorite player growing up," explained Mitchell. "It was really cool and really special to be drafted by them, number one, and then to eventually put on the (Leafs) jersey, played at the Air Canada Centre, score my first goal here---yeah that was awesome."
While appreciative of the first chance given to him by the Maple Leafs, Mitchell is more than happy to be a Ranger now.
"I am very thankful for the opportunity the Rangers have given me," said Mitchell.
Share your thoughts below on Mitchell's play with the Rangers, and his return to Toronto tonight.