photo via gophersports.com
Casey Mittelstadt is one of the most polarizing prospects the Sabres have had in the last 20 years. At the bottom of this page – in 3 subpages divided by skillset, I analyze and show you plays that make Casey Mittelstadt elite in different areas. There are a lot of clips I’ve captured from watching games combined with some highlights you may have seen before because the play resulted in a goal and it likely found its way into a highlight package somewhere.
Caliber of Prospect Relative to Past Sabres
In terms of the level of prospect when entering the NHL (forwards only), I think Mittelstadt falls under Jack Eichel, and about on par with, yet slightly above Thomas Vanek.
Vanek, a fellow Minnesota Gopher, entered the NHL with similar promise to that of Casey Mittelstadt. Both players were top 10 picks heading into the NCAA, with Vanek coming out on top in terms of production in their freshman year at Minnesota. It is notable that Vanek’s team found a lot more offensive success scoring a total of 189 goals, where Mittelstadt and his depleted surrounding cast this past season were only able to find the net 102 times. Vanek’s rookie stat line of 48 points in 81 games is right around where I’d expect Mittelstadt this upcoming season.
Mikhail Grigorenko, Zemgus Girgensons, Joel Armia, Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford, as the list goes on, it not only puts into perspective how bad the Sabres were at drafting and developing forwards, but also how unique of a prospect Mittelstadt is relative to those of the past.
I think we’ve yet to see Sam Reinhart’s full potential, but despite going #2 overall I comfortably put Mittelstadt ahead of Reinhart as players heading into their rookie seasons. Draft status doesn’t affect my opinion at all here as Reinhart would go significantly lower in a 2014 re-draft, where Mittelstadt is on the right track to go significantly higher in a 2017 re-draft. We’ve seen Reinhart struggle to play his natural position of center in the NHL due to lacked abilities you’ll find in Casey Mittelstadt. Mittelstadt’s ability to push the play is significantly better than Reinhart’s is now, let alone in his rookie year.
We’ll see what Alex Nylander turns into, but people thought I was crazy when I said Mittelstadt >> Nylander when they first drafted him. There’s no reason to believe otherwise right now so I’ll leave it at that. Wonder how this poll would would change a year later, I bet 36% for Nylander would be high.
This page has already gone on fairly long, so I decided to break this into different parts to be a little more organized. There are a few different areas that Casey Mittelstadt excels in, and what I believe will make him into an elite NHL player.
On each page I’ll give examples from clips I’ve captured of Mittelstadt in games from last summer to now and break them down to fully illustrate what’s happening.
You’ll notice a lot of these clips are against Penn State — I re watched the Gophers playoff series against PSU to gather more clips for this article. Some people knock Mittelstadt for his freshman production, but they don’t see all the great plays he made that didn’t result in goals. Some of that is due to hockey just being a game of bounces and the growing pains of being a freshman, but Mittelstadt was stuck with a pretty bad surrounding cast on the Gophers that struggled badly on offense. Their power-play was atrocious and watching the Gophers’ dependance on Mittelstadt to carry them in games through transition and the scoresheet was reminiscent of Jack Eichel with the Sabres.
All clips in these breakdowns were from NCAA, World Juniors, or World Junior Summer Showcase games. If you see a clip used more than once it’s just because there was something you could take away for more than one category from the clip.
Shoutout to Puck Prospects on Youtube for some of the highlights.
- Transition (breakouts, break-ins, verall transition) – Click Here
- Playmaking (passing, hands, takeaways) – Click Here
- Shot/Release – Click Here