Selected with the 11th overall pick in the 2012 CHL Import Draft, Mirco Mueller left his hometown of Winterthur, Switzerland to pursue a North American hockey career. The Swiss native left for Everett, Washington at just 17 years old to play for the Everett Silvertips, the local Western Hockey League team. Prior to his WHL days, Mueller got his first taste of professional hockey when he played for the Kloten Flyers in the National League A where he scored one goal in 7 games in the 2011-2012 season. With such limited experience, Mueller knew he would have to move on to bigger and better things elsewhere.
At the start of his Everett tenure, Mueller was playing with 2012 Columbus Blue Jackets first round pick and Everett captain Ryan Murray. However, a season-ending injury to the Silvertips’ leader would throw Mueller into a much more prominent role on the blueline. The Swiss defenseman tallied 6 goals and 25 assists for a total of 31 points in 63 games played. The 2012-2013 season was less than desirable for the Silvertips – they came in last in their division and finished 8th in the conference with 57 points, allowing 268 goals on the season- so it is understandable that Mueller was a minus-10 on the season. Despite this, Everett went on to a playoff series in which Mueller had a strong outing – he registered one assist and was a plus-3 through six playoff games. It was a solid season for the rookie defenseman who had had just 7 games of prior professional experience.
Before the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Mueller was ranked 9th among North American skaters on Central Scouting’s final rankings list. The draft was held in Newark, New Jersey on June 30, 2013 and the San Jose Sharks held the 20th overall pick in the first round. In a draft day trade, San Jose moved up to #18 overall to select the young Swede. This fall, he partook in a rookie tournament in San Jose. However, Mueller said he knew that being drafted and being given a glimpse of NHL action was just the beginning:
You can improve everywhere, but the most I would say is that I have to get bigger and stronger to be able to compete in the battles and the corners and things like that. There were some pretty big guys in San Jose. I definitely want to work on that. I also want to take on a bigger leadership role in Everett from last year. I need to help lead the way, especially for the younger guys. I want to show and lead by example.
Mueller’s desire to become a prominent leader in San Jose is the result of Ryan Murray’s departure from the Silvertips. The former captain was called up by the Blue Jackets at the start of the 2013-2014 NHL season when management determined he was ready to play in the big league. Mueller, however, requires further seasoning in the WHL, so he will take on a leadership role in the shadow of newly-appointed captain and fellow defenseman Matt Pufahl.
At 6’4″ and 200 pounds, Mirco is honing his game in his sophomore season in Everett, hoping it will be his last. Silvertips coach Kevin Constantine had high praise for the defender:
I think because of his skating and his range his upside is unlimited, then it’ll just be a matter of how he develops in the next five years as to the type of player he’s going to be. Is he going to be a shut-down guy or is he going to blossom offensively as a top three? I think anything can happen; it’s tough to predict right now. If he keeps working on his game anything is possible. He has a lot of upside to his game.
So far in the 2013-2014 WHL season, the Everett Silvertips are 19-4-4 through 27 GP and have amassed 42 points to maintain the first seed in the Western Conference. Mirco has been a big part of their success thus far, having scored 2 goals and 6 assists for 8 points through 24 GP. He is also a minus-1, which is a significant improvement from his rookie season plus/minus total. His biggest night came on September 27 when he registered two assists, was a plus-3, and achieved the honor of first star in the game. Coming into the season he was expected to be the #1 defender, and although he does not provide as much offense as other defenders, his shot-blocking, blue collar, big-body presence challenges top offensive players night in and night out. He signed an entry-level contract with the Sharks on September 22 and will remain with the Everett Silvertips for the remainder of the season. Hopefully he will be ready to remain in San Jose past the 2014 Sharks training camp.