Casey Mittelstadt’s ability to use his other elite tools while at top speed make him an elite player in transition. Teammate, Jack Eichel, is one of the best in the NHL in transition, finding himself in the same conversation as Patrick Kane and Connor McDavid in the top five, league-wide. The Sabres have the luxury of adding two world-class transition players to the lineup this year in Mittelstadt and Dahlin, adding to what Jack Eichel has carried for the last three seasons.
I noted Mittelstadt’s ability to make plays at top speed — that’s why Connor McDavid is the best player in the world, and others like Gaudreau, Eichel, etc are elite. It’s a trait that distinguishes the Michael Grabner’s of the world from the Mat Barzal’s. Elite skating ability is important, but being able to make a pass, a quick cut, dangle around someone, take a shot, & process everything that’s happening at full speed is a special ability Mittelstadt shares with the elite of the NHL.
I’ve watched ~30-40 of Casey Mittelstadt’s games in a plethora of different leagues and tournaments and I can say with certainty his best trait is his Hockey IQ. You’ll see it more evident in the playmaking section, but it makes up his great transition game as well. It’s hard to point out in 5-10 second clips, but when you watch him — even in his few game stint in the NHL — he just gets it. A lot of the plays away from the puck where you see Mittelstadt’s ‘Hockey IQ’ come out are plays you would like to see more out of Alex Nylander. His positioning always seems to be perfect and he understands angles to both shield the puck when he has it and steal it when he doesn’t. His positioning on breakouts is something simple, but he picks his spots well and understands when to build up speed before getting the puck.
I’ve decided to split Mittelstadt’s transition game into three parts. I’ll show specific clips of highlight-reel Hybrid plays, where I’ll show more examples of different variations of breakouts and break-ins.
- Hybrid (breakout -> break-in)
Mittelstadt’s a dangerous transition player in the fact that he can break the puck out from all the way back in his own zone, and then still create something on offense as well. Casey’s smarts show as he passes with purpose and to a teammate in good position rather than just dumping it off to the first player he can find open. He’s like a quarterback going through progressions but can pick a target in a split second without even looking at them.
Defense to Offense vs OSU
Mittelstadt makes a great poke in his own zone — followed up by a nice rush cutting through the middle of the ice. He finds Scott Reedy driving wide, and takes a drop-pass before finding Pitlick open for a goal backdoor. Mittelstadt broke the puck out and made two good passes leading to a goal showing the exact type of offense you want to see 5-on-5.
Breakout/Break-in and shot vs PSU
I used this clip in the shot section as well. Mittelstadt, in an urge to tie the game late – on the brink of elimination in the playoffs – races up ice and curls the puck between two defenseman, releasing a quick shot on net. He even follows is up with his speed off the break-in and bats the rebound out of mid-air before retrieving the puck back to the point.
Breakout/Hands/Vision vs OSU
Mittelstadt starts the play with a great breakout pass from behind his own net — he’s aggressive in the neutral zone, and tracks the puck back towards his own net. Casey then turns on the jets and heads up ice, showing off some nice hands before entering the Ohio State zone. He circles back making a great pass and finding his defenseman cutting up the middle of the zone for a good scoring chance.
Coast 2 Coast
Mittelstadt blows by the entire Canadian team in each zone while maintaining control.
The clips in the next two sections are shorter so may contain smaller descriptions for each.
- Mittelstadt crosses the blue-line and makes a quick left-cut creating space for himself to find the trailing forward.
- Nice break in shrugging off a back-checker and threading a pass under a defenseman’s stick to Rem Pitlick.
- Mittelstadt makes a great backhand pass in the neutral zone to a teammate entering the zone, he passes up ice rather than waiting to do it laterally, which allows him to keep his feet moving and enter the zone with speed. He finds a soft spot in coverage and takes a receiving pass for a great chance 1-on-1 with the goalie.
- Has similar break-in ability to Jack Eichel on the power-play. Can back defenders up with speed and pass laterally at the line if necessary.
- Another simple example of solo break-in ability as the puck carrier coming up the middle.
- Creative break-in slicing through the opposing forwards in the neutral zone, followed by a good pass.
- Ability to pass it under the defenseman’s stick, connecting with the player in stride and on-the-tape allowing him to beat the Finnish defenseman wide and score.
- Mittelstadt makes a good pass to keep play going for Minnesota up ice while under pressure. He follows up the play with a good shot spinning off the back-checker.
- Defensively responsible — breaks it out himself.
- Makes a good defensive poke, catches a pass on the rush between his legs and then attacks the middle of the ice for a shot attempt.
- Good speed from his own zone through the neutral zone to execute a clean breakout before a line change.
- I wasn’t sure which category to put this into, but Mittelstadt makes a good play out of a teammate’s bad pass, kicking the puck safely for his and his team’s control — eventually leading to a scoring chance.
Thanks for checking out this section of the Mittelstadt series! If this is the last section you’re checking out, I appreciate you following along. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated on twitter at either of the links below.
If you haven’t checked out the other 2 sections, you can find them at the main page HERE.