Prospect Report: By NHLPROSPECTREPORT
The gap between a terrible team and a Stanley Cup team has always been wide in the NHL, but not so much anymore. Nowadays we see teams frequently go from the bottom five to playoff contender in just one season.
The prospects that come into the NHL these days are better then ever before. This influx of young talent has changed the NHL in many ways, most importantly, it's a faster NHL.
The NHL now relies on speed and skill instead of the traditional trap game. It has changed 4th lines too. No longer do you need three guys who can punch the lights out of anyone, hell, you don't even need one.
What you want is a guy like Tom Wilson (just not at his cap hit). A guy who can defend your talent from getting run headfirst into the boards while still occasionally chipping in offensively. This is the type of player that Buffalo needs, just not right now.
It's a good time to be a Buffalo Sabres fan. Everyone and their dog is talking about Rasmus Dahlin and how he's going to be a generational talent for the Sabres blue line but not many people are talking about Mittelstadt.
Before the 2018 draft it was easy to argue that Buffalo was one of the most promising teams in terms of young talent. They have a good core to build around in Eichel, Reinhart, Ristolainen and Mittelstadt; and now with first overall pick Dahlin they have an exciting group of elite players.
They also have some blue chip wingers waiting for their chance in Alex Nylander and Victor Olofsson and with a bevy of talent up the middle, Buffalo needs some scoring wingers.
Olofsson is an electric scorer coming over from the SHL, one who should make the jump this season due to Buffalo's weak winger corps. He is a true sniper who could really help either Eichel or Mittelstadt on the wing.
Alex Nylander could also make the jump to the NHL this season. He's the younger brother of Toronto's William Nylander and someone who I've watched in international play and I've always liked his game. Alex has a very high hockey IQ and would be a good fit for either Mittelstadt or Eichel's wing.
The Sabres have a few other prospects who could make an appearance in the NHL. Defensive defenceman Will Borgen and future goaltender Luukkonen.
Quick aside on Luukonen. He was one of Europe's top goalies coming into the World Juniors where he absolutely crapped the bed. One bad tournament doesn't mean that much... but it was a major red flag. I wouldn't count on this kid to lead you to a Stanley Cup.
The 2017 draft wasn't that long ago, yet if your team's GM could do it all again I bet you the top 10 picks would look a little different, hell even the top three in my opinion wouldnt be Nico Hischier, Nolan Patrick and Miro Heiskanen. I would argue that if those teams could go back it would be a little different. Possibly Petterson, Mittelstadt and Makar.
I wrote an article on why I think Elias Petterson will win the Calder this year, and I think his biggest competition will be Mittelstadt. I don't normally quote other websites but this sums him up perfectly, " [Casey is] an electric offensive presence on the ice, [he] brings the complete package of speed, skill, and hockey sense. He competes hard with every shift, and has the dynamic puck skills to keep up with his creativity, which is a hallmark of his game." (Eliteprospects.com, 2017).
Having seen him live I can back up this statement. Watching him at the World Juniors was something to see. On a line with Brady Tkachuk and playing on the powerplay with Isle's prospect Kieffer Bellows, his playmaking abilities were on full display. He was almost impossible to contain in the offensive zone and his transition game was elite, especially in the 3v3 overtime. I predict Casey puts up a solid 60-70 points this season, many of which will come on the powerplay.
In his last season at the University of Minnesota in the NCAA Mittlestadt put up a respectable 11 goals and 19 assists in 34 games. Then in his brief audition in the NHL last season he put up 5 points in his first 6 games with signs that he is definitely NHL ready.
Casey has all the tools to be an elite point producer in the NHL. Having Eichel and Middlestadt as your 1-2 centres is an intimidating thought for any opposing defenceman or coach.
Buffalo's biggest problem in the last few years was goaltending and defence. They've addressed both in getting Dahlin in the draft and trading for Carter Hutton (although I feel like Hutton is just a band aid for a bullet wound). Hutton may solve their issues this season but what about the next five years?
Buffalo's a team that's had a long run of disappointment and lets be honest they haven't been good in over five years. However, those five years have been good as far as stockpiling elite talent. It's now time for that talent to shine. Jump on the bandwagon now, it should be a fun ride.