When Buffalo Sabres forward Casey Mittelstadt hits the ice at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul Minnesota on November 17, he’ll have come a long way since his last time hitting that ice, nearly 20 months prior.
Circle back to March 10, 2017 - not a very long time ago, really.
That day marked the final high school game of Mittelstadt’s career, a 3-2 loss for his Eden Prairie team to Grand Rapids. The forward notched one assist, finishing his high school hockey career with 170 points in just 75 games of regular-season action.
It was a whirlwind from there.
First, off to a brief stint in the USHL with the Green Bay Gamblers, where he averaged over a point per game. Then, to the University of Minnesota, where Mittelstadt put up 30 points in 34 NCAA games - including eight points in his final game as a freshman.
Just over a year after his final high school hockey game, the Buffalo Sabres forward made his NHL debut, on March 29, 2018.
Now, he’s prepping for his first full NHL season with the Buffalo Sabres.
“I have high expectations for myself,” Mittelstadt said amidst Sabres development camp this summer. “I wanted to be one of the best guys, and do the best that I could. Just working on my strength, working on everything.”
“Getting better at everything is the most important thing for me,” he added.
Mittelstadt was one of two players with NHL experience at the Sabres recent camp, alongside Brendan Guhle. Mittelstadt appeared in six games with Buffalo last season, notching five points - including his first NHL goal.
Sabres assistant general manager Steve Greeley noted that Mittelstadt has matured significantly in the last year.
“You think about it, a year ago, he was playing public high school hockey,” Greeley said. “Now, he’s got a year of college hockey under his belt and a couple NHL games.”
“I think when we got him here [in Buffalo] in the spring, it opened his eyes up a bit to what it means to be a National Hockey League player; what the guys are doing after the game, workouts, how they’re eating,” Greeley added.
“The Casey we’re seeing now is more mature, more refined in terms of trying to become an everyday, great National Hockey League player,” he summarized.
At 19, Mittelstadt is still fairly young. The eighth-overall 2017 draft pick has been noted for his speed and puck-handling skills, two feats he’ll look to bring full-time to the NHL this season.
The former Minnesota Mr. Hockey has a number of accolades to his name so far, including earning NCAA (B1G) All-Rookie Team honors last year, along with winning a bronze medal at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships. Mittelstadt was also named to the World Juniors All-Star Team, best forward, most valuable player and one of the top three players on Team USA.
Now, it’s a matter of seeing what the young forward can do with his first full season playing professionally - and it appears that both the Sabres and Mittelstadt himself are ready for whatever lies ahead with him.