Recently, a Die By the Blade reader hopped into my email inbox to ask for an update on Casey Mittelstadt during his current stint with the AHL’s Rochester Americans, so I figured I’d give a little update in case you haven’t kept close eye on him or the struggling Amerks.
Mittelstadt was reassigned to the Amerks on December 15, just a few days after I wrote that the Sabres should send him down. At the time of his reassignment, he wasn’t getting a lot of ice time in Buffalo and was often being scratched, so sending him down - especially when he didn’t need to go through waivers - made a lot of sense.
Since his reassignment, Mittelstadt has appeared in 14 games with the Amerks. If you’re the type to put any stock in plus/minus, well, he’s a minus-9 — but the team as a whole has struggled, especially lately; they’re now on a seven-game skid.
Regardless, Mittelstadt has put up four goals and added three assists for seven points in his current AHL stint. Two of his four goals have come on special teams.
When interviewed by the team earlier this month, Mittelstadt didn’t shy away from the fact that it took some time for him to adjust to the AHL:
Casey Mittelstadt on the AHL:— Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) January 13, 2020
"It's a lot different. I think it took me 3-4 games to get used to it and get adjusted. I'm feeling better now, but it's definitely a different game." pic.twitter.com/aO0dX9S3Gr
In his first game with Rochester, a 2-1 loss to the Binghamton Devils, Mittelstadt recorded two shots on goal. He was in the starting lineup for the next game, alongside Andrew Oglevie and Brett Murray. Highlights of his current AHL stint include a six-shot performance, where he also scored once and was a plus-1, in a 4-3 overtime win over the Belleville Senators.
As I mentioned when he was first sent down, Mittelstadt’s reassignment just made sense for all involved: the player himself, the Sabres and the Amerks. It’s easy to look at the numbers right now and see that Rochester didn’t magically become a top team with his reassignment, but that was never the expectation (or shouldn’t have been, at any rate). The assignment seems to be doing good things for the player’s overall development, and that’s what matters most here.
I thought this quote from Sabres GM Jason Botterill from WGR550 earlier this month was particularly appropriate:
Jason Botterill - Casey could be up here right now surviving, but we don't want him for that. We want him to be a consistent part of our offensive punch. #Sabres50— WGR 550 (@WGR550) January 14, 2020
Would you rather have a Mittelstadt in the NHL, surviving but struggling to find consistent ice time or production? Or would you rather have a Mittelstadt in the AHL, growing and doing more than just ‘surviving?’
Here’s a clip of one of his recent goals:
So, what should we expect from this point forward in regards to Mittelstadt?
Well, for starters, I wouldn’t expect to see him back in Buffalo anytime soon. There isn’t a roster spot open for him here, and bringing him back up just to put him in the exact same position that he was in before his assignment - being healthy scratched, getting limited ice time - would be pointless.
Let him keep developing in Rochester, where he likely should’ve started the season anyways. Sure, he’s not dominating the AHL, but he’s certainly doing more and better than he would be with the Sabres at this point. As the Amerks try to pull out of this seven-game losing stretch, perhaps Mittelstadt jumps into a bigger role and is able to provide a little ‘veteran’ leadership to the team.
Or, perhaps he just continues to develop his game, contribute offensively when it’s possible and keep growing over the next few months of AHL action. Either way, it’s better than having him sitting in the press box at KeyBank Center.