Casey Mittelstadt is on the ice for the first time as a Buffalo Sabre today. The 19 yr. old left the University of Minnesota after his freshman season and signed his three-year entry-level deal with the Sabres on Monday. Mittelstadt is a 6’1" 201 lb. center who comes to Buffalo on a one-and-done after finishing his only college season with 30 points (11+19) in 34 games for the Golden Gophers.
The Edina, MN native also made a strong impact at the 2018 World Junior Championships held in Buffalo, NY as he did the Sabres and their fans proud by being named the tournament MVP while leading Team USA to a bronze medal.
Mittelstadt was drafted eighth-overall by the Sabres at the 2017 NHL Draft and was touted as a complete offensive player bringing skill, speed and a strong hockey IQ to the ice. Kris Baker of sabresprospects.com/sabres.com was on WGR550 radio this Monday and told he hosts he thinks that Mittelstadt "will be an immediate impact player for the Sabres."
"I think for the Sabres," said Baker, "and not to oversell it, when you can put a dynamic offensive talent in the mix immediately–fast hands, great shooter, and more importantly, he’s ultra, ultra competitive–he can help drive possession and get a lot of shots to the net. I think those are two elements that the Sabres are sorely missing."
"Competitive nature" is something that really doesn’t show up as a stat in analytic world, yet it’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially when Mittelstadt is joining a team that, overall, doesn’t seem to be overflowing with that trait.
As a freshman, Mittelstadt displayed all the skills that he’s been touted for as well as having the gumption to take on players at the collegiate level that were bigger and/or older. Thanks to University of Michigan and the Ohio State University, I was able to catch a few of Mittelstadt’s games against two teams–the Wolverines and Buckeyes, respectively–who are now in the NCAA Men’s Frozen Four. The video below has clips of Mittelstadt in a rugged affair against the Wolverines and showing off some skill in what turned into a very tight contest against the Buckeyes.
Michigan had a body on Mittelstadt all game and he found himself tangling with 6’3" 215 lb. defenseman Griffin Luce (son of former Sabres forward, Don Luce) and a rather feisty 6’1" 200 d-man in Nicolas Boka. Against the Buckeyes, Mittelstadt created space with some great stickwork and eventually fed Rem Pitlick for the game-tying goal late in the third period.
Mittelstadt will wear No. 37 for Buffalo when he takes the ice for his professional game and when asked yesterday if there was any significance to that choosing that number, he told the gathered media, "No, not really."
"Me and my buddies were kind of chatting," he continued, "I’ve worn [Nos.] 11, 20, 21, 22 and they’re all taken, so, might as well switch it up and go for No. 37."
Where Mittelstadt fits in moving forward is somewhat of a question mark. Like many, Baker believes that his best position is center "as he likes the puck on his stick," and he thinks that having Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly and Mittelstadt down the middle would be pretty strong. But Baker also said that Mittelstadt could play any forward position and even pointed out that the left-shot could play off wing because of his strong stickwork. "The way he changes his shooting angle," said Baker, "it’s tough to pick up the puck off of his stick."
Although it may still seem strange to say, considering the past decade of Sabres hockey, Buffalo has a wealth of centers right now and are bereft of talent on the wing, especially left wing. And that’s not likely to change significantly any time soon, so he may get some time on the wing in Buffalo’s final six games of the season.
However, according to reports from the rink, for today Mittelstadt is centering Evan Rodrigues on the left and Sam Reinhart on the right. The other lines are:
Girgensons, Eichel, Pominville
The Sabres host the Detroit Red Wings tomorrow night.