BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — After signing a one-year contract in late December, Sabres forward Casey Mittelstadt is trying to prove his worth.
Surrounded by high expectations as the 8th overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft, Mittelstadt hasn't done a whole lot at the NHL level. It's why this season is really important.
He's played in two games including the team's most recent on Sunday against New Jersey, and the coaches and players have liked what they've seen.
"He seems to know the play that he's gonna make before he gets the puck and when he gets it, he's really confident with it," Kyle Okposo said. "I've really liked what he's brought and he definitely seems to have taken steps which is great."
"He's strong on the puck and he's always been confident with it out there," Will Borgen added. "I've always thought he was a really good player."
Mittelstadt began the 2019-20 season with the Sabres, recording nine points in 31 games played [four goals, five assists], but was sent down to Rochester after the team's December 10th game against St. Louis.
He played the rest of the season with the Amerks, until COVID-19 canceled the remainder of the season and postseason. Mittelstadt wasted no time getting to work.
"No one wants to have that long of an off-season," Mittelstadt said. "But for me, being in the weight room to get quicker was good for me."
And his offseason program is paying off. The coaches and players have seen an increase in his foot speed, something coach Krueger says is crucial with the quickness of the NHL. He spent Monday's practice skating on the top line alongside Jack Eichel and Victor Olofsson.
"He is definitely a future offensive threat, a play maker, and it was important to increase his foot speed and separate himself on the rush," Krueger said. "That was lacking last season and it was good to see somebody work on that in the off season."
"I've always tried to have a little more focus on speed and quickness in my workouts because it's such a big part of the game," Mittelstadt said. "I got some extra time to work on that this year. It was good to take time, take a deep breath, and look on things I'd like to fix."
Starting as a member on the taxi squad, Mittelstadt has recorded one assist in two games. He looks to keep improving as a player and earn more chances on the Sabres regular season roster.
"I like having him on the bench during games. He's a positive spirit and gives off good energy to his line mates and teammates," head coach Ralph Krueger said. "He is on the verge here and we're excited to see what's happening with him."