Buffalo Sabres forward Casey Mittelstadt needs a spark, and perhaps the best way the team can help themselves - and him - would be to send him down to the AHL’s Rochester Americans for a little while.
Sending Mittelstadt down to the AHL would be beneficial for the Sabres, for the Amerks and for Mittelstadt himself, including his development as a player.
He would not have to go through waivers to be sent down. Obviously that can be a huge concern with some players in this type of situation, as you have to decide if the risk of potentially losing them is worth it. For Mittelstadt, he wouldn’t have to go through waivers, so there’s no risk.
Mittelstadt isn’t getting a lot of ice time lately up in Buffalo. He played just 10:26 in the Sabres’ win over St. Louis earlier this week, including just ONE 45-second long shift in the third period. In Vancouver, he played only 9:51. The following night in Edmonton, he didn’t play at all.
Mittelstadt has recorded just two points - one goal, one assist - in his last 21 games with the Sabres, dating back to October 22. Overall this year, the 21-year-old has put up nine points (4-5) in 31 games.
Benching him, or playing him so little, isn’t doing much good. Yes, players can learn some lessons from the press box at times, but it’s almost certainly better for them to be playing and getting to develop their skills on the ice... not in the press box. Especially for any length of time, and especially at such a young age.
Some feel that the Sabres rushed Mittelstadt’s development, but this gives them an opportunity to make the right decision. If they’re not going to play him at the NHL level and give him sufficient ice time, linemates and opportunity, the Sabres are better off sending him down to the Amerks, where he can play a lot, likely score a bunch of goals and fine-tune his game, as well as share his knowledge of playing in the NHL with the AHL crew.
It’s not that the Amerks need any help - they’re second in the North Division, three points behind Toronto, and have gone 8-1-1 in their last ten games - but having a player with the potential of Mittelstadt join their ranks can only help. Mittelstadt would boost a Rochester offense that includes players like Andrew Oglevie, Kevin Porter and Jean-Sebastien Dea.
Are there any pitfalls to assigning Mittelstadt to Rochester? Not particularly, at least not as far as this writer is concerned. If the Sabres are going to continue to handle him as they have - scratching him, playing limited minutes and sometimes sitting him on the bench for nearly an entire period - he’d be much better off spending some time in the AHL. Send him down, see what he can do there for a few weeks, and then, if/when an NHL roster spot opens back up, bring him back up - when he’s earned the opportunity.