The Sabres have 5 prospects taking part in the 2018 World Juniors and Buffalo and in general it was a good showing for Sabres prospects in front of their future home crowd on day one.
Casey Mittelstadt (2G) (Player of the Game)
Mittelstadt seemed to be the consensus pick for Sabres fans when asked who they were most excited to watch at the World Juniors this year after already getting a glimpse of a player like Nylander last year. The 2017 8th overall pick didn’t disappoint and followed up his pre tournament performance in the team’s first game. Take their opponent, Denmark, however you’d like as they’re going to be a bottom three team when all said and done, but Mittelstadt was absolutely brilliant. Whether it was showing off his lightning quick hands to weave through traffic or make a guy look silly, using great edge work to cut on a dime, his excellent vision to put pucks on teammates tape that no one expected, or showing off his scoring touch to pot home two goals, the Minnesota freshman did it all. Dave Starman said it best before the puck even dropped, “This kid will make five or six plays before the tournament’s over you’ll remember for the next decade.” Mittelstadt didn’t wait long to wow the home crowd as he came out flying and was the best player on the ice by far.
Earlier in that shift… Casey does Casey things pic.twitter.com/q7SZ1Lkl6c
— The Charging Buffalo (@TheChargingBUF) December 27, 2017
Mittelstadt shortly after this play received a pass from 2018 NHL Draft eligible Quinn Hughes (who Sabres fans would love in blue and gold), wired a backhand towards the net, followed up on it and potted it home.
About ten minutes later, Mittelstadt went to the net receiving a gorgeous pass from Patrick Harper and tapped in his second of the game, top shelf, out of mid-air for a highlight reel goal.
As fun as plays like these are:
It’s these type of plays that are going to translate the most to the next level and make a player like Mittelstadt special:
Casey picks up the puck in his own zone, backs absolutely everyone up on the other team with his speed allowing an easy zone entry, draws all the attention, makes a guy look silly, and finds a teammate for a prime scoring chance.
Mittelstadt deservedly ended up earning player of the game honors. He’ll be a lot of fun to continue watching as the tournament progresses.
Alex Nylander (2A)
Alexander Nylander, coming off a great World Juniors last year, potted two assists in Sweden’s 6-1 win over Belarus. It wasn’t a great start for Nylander as he seemed to be fighting the puck a little with a few turnovers. One leading to a goal where he tried to make a saucer pass to Timothy Liljegren at the blue line which was picked off and Belarus took the other way for a goal.
Nylander elevated his game a lot in the 2nd and 3rd periods and was relied on a ton for Sweden. Nylander finished the game 2nd in ice time only behind future 1st overall pick, Rasmus Dahlin, and controlled the pace of play with the likes of Elias Pettersson (VAN 2017 1st Rounder) and Lias Andersson (NYR 2017 1st Rounder).
On his first assist, Nylander gained the zone with speed, stopped up to wait for a play, and made a dime of a saucer pass to Erik Brannstrom (VGK 2017 1st Rounder) who walked in to score.
Later on, Sweden’s top three forwards all connected on a goal as Pettersson found Nylander cross ice who made a nice one touch pass to Lias Andersson in front for his first of two goals in the game.
I’d like to see Nylander clean up some of his mistakes in the first period especially being a third year guy, but all in all it was a good game for the Swede.
Davidsson didn’t register a point in Sweden’s game but registered two shots and showed off his lightning quick speed. Davidsson will be a depth guy when he cracks the roster but will be a very useful player as he can penalty kill and is very good with his stick. He’ll bring a lot more offensive upside to the depth positions than what the Sabres have now and is a very mature player. With a team lacking speed like the Sabres, it should only be a year or two before the 2017 2nd Round pick sniffs an NHL roster spot.
It was a rough and disappointing first game for Luukkonen and the Finns against Team Canada as they fell 4-2. Luukkonen had to stand on his head in the third period to assure the score wasn’t even worse because Finland’s defense look atrocious. Two out of the four goals against were tap ins for Canada where the Finns didn’t even give the big Finnish goaltender a chance to make a save. The first goal was a breakaway where the Canadian forward knocked Luukkonen and the net over and the puck squeaked over the line after the net was already off, but somehow counted.
The fourth goal was a knuckle puck slap shot that looked bad on Luukkonen’s part but in reality is incredibly hard to get a read on and to make a save. It wasn’t a bad game for Luukkonen but wasn’t great as he didn’t really have a fair chance to earn his team a win after their poor defensive play
Budik was very sound defensively in the Czechs upset win over Russia. He was an even rating in the game and took one penalty while registering no shots on goal. At this point, the Sabres’ 2016 5th Round pick doesn’t hold too much NHL upside but as a good skater and sound defender he could provide some organizational depth down the road.