The buzz around Buffalo Sabres youngsters heading into the 2018-19 campaign is going to revolve mostly around No. 1 draft pick Rasmus Dahlin, however another Sabres rookie is primed to steal some headlines.
Casey Mittelstadt impressed in his brief stint with the Sabres this past spring, registering five points in his first six NHL games and scoring his first career NHL goal in Buffalo’s penultimate contest of the season.
The 19-year-old, selected eighth overall by the Sabres in 2017, is going to be counted on to be a major contributor up front for a franchise looking to turn around what has been essentially a six-year tailspin.
Mittelstadt has gone from being a star at Eden Prairie High in Minnesota to being an impactful freshman at the University of Minnesota and could find himself as an everyday NHLer come October.
“You think about it, a year ago he’s playing public high school hockey and now he’s got a year of college hockey under his belt and a couple NHL games,” Sabres assistant general manager Steve Greeley told Joe Yerdon of NHL.com.
Despite Mittelstadt only having those six NHL games on his résumé, that brief stint in the pros could prove vital to his development at hockey’s highest level.
“I think when we got him here in the spring, it opened his eyes up a little bit to what it means to be a National Hockey League player, what the guys are doing after a game in terms of workouts and how they’re eating,” Greeley explained. “I think the Casey we’re seeing now is more mature, more refined in terms of trying to become an everyday great National Hockey League player. To me, it’s natural.”
Mittelstadt led the 2018 world juniors (which took place in Buffalo) in scoring with 11 points in seven games and, although he was unable to represent the United States at the 2018 IIHF world championships in May, he turned heads and dropped jaws at the Sabres’ recent development camp.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) June 28, 2018
Mittelstadt also been working on his game in Da Beauty League — a Minnesota-based summer league many NHLers participate in annually.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) July 19, 2018
“I think I’ve always said I have high expectations for myself, so coming in here I wanted to be one of the best guys and I wanted to play the best that I could,” Mittelstadt said of his time at development camp back in June. “I don’t know if I made too many jumps. Just kind of work on my strength and working around everything, getting better at everything is the most important to me.”
If Mittelstadt can continue to progress at the rate in which he has been progressing it’ll be good news for a Sabres team that also boasts young talent like Dahlin, Jack Eichel, Rasmus Ristolainen, Sam Reinhart, Alexander Nylander and newly-acquired Tage Thompson.