Sabres' Mittelstadt turned a tough Prospects Challenge around quickly

The rookie center never quit and came through in the end

Paul Hamilton
September 11, 2018 - 1:13 pm

Photo courtesy of @Buffalosabres (Bill Wippert)


Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - This is going to be Casey Mittelstadt’s first full season in the NHL and a lot will be expected of the 19-year-old. Buffalo traded Ryan O’Reilly as part of a huge culture change and that has put a lot on Mittelstadt’s plate.

The kid has always responded in his life including being the best player of the World Junior tournament that was held in Buffalo. During the Sabres Prospect Challenge, things did not go well for Mittelstadt and he let frustration get the best of him. He had a very tough first two games and didn’t play all that well in the first two periods of the third.

Mittelstadt had no points and was pressing. You could see in his body language he was pressing a lot. It drove him to try to skate through four Boston Bruins on his own during a power play. He, of course, turned the puck over and the Bruins cleared it.

Mittelstadt played six NHL games last season and had a goal and four assists for five points. What I liked about his stint with the big club and with his tournament, he doesn’t give up. He keeps trying to be the skilled player that he is and Monday against the Penguins, it came through. In the third period, Mittelstadt found his game and picked up three nice assists. He was good with the puck, found his skating and made a difference to help Buffalo win the tournament. When his team needed him the most, he was there. Mittelstadt knew it was a tough go to start, “There were times where I was forcing it too much this weekend, but it’s early and you come back and get into the game flow and once things start clicking, they all click.

“In the third, I started making normal plays that I normally make with my hands and feet, so it was pretty good overall, but there’s room for improvement.”

Jason Botterill has supreme confidence in the 2017 eighth overall NHL pick. He said, “On Friday and Saturday, maybe Casey was disappointed in some of his performance that he wasn’t creating as much offense, but I liked his compete and I liked his effort to at least try to find things out there.

“I was looking for guys battling and looking for guys to bring passion to the game and I thought Casey did that.”

One of the things that made Botterill draft Mittelstadt was his game when it matters. Botterill said, “He’s always going to put a lot of pressure on himself, but I think he’s handled those situations a lot in the past. Look at last year in the World Juniors, being in Buffalo, the team that drafted him, most people would probably wilt under that pressure, he excelled and was the MVP of that tournament, so I think he really enjoys those scenarios.”

Mittelstadt was frustrated, but he’s the type of player that knows it will eventually go his way, “Yes, just stick with it and keep playing your game. I’m confident in myself, so I keep doing what I do and hopefully it turns around.”

Mittelstadt knows that with O’Reilly gone, a lot will be expected of him, but he doesn’t think about it, “Honestly, I love the pressure, I’ve always had the pressure. I’ve always played better with the pressure, so I’ve got no problem with it.”

Mittelstadt is part of a young group that will be making its way on this roster for the next two to three years. He said he's gotten to know these guys and it makes it fun, “I’ve been here awhile now and gotten to know some of the guys who have been here with me and I think it makes everything more fun, you’re just doing it with your buddies, you score a goal or make a nice play, everybody is laughing around and before the games everybody is having fun and when the time comes, you can go to battle with them and they’ll go to battle with you, so I think it definitely helps.”

The Sabres report to training camp on Thursday for physicals and testing.

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