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Sabres' fans ready for a taste of Casey Mittelstadt

Posted at 4:59 PM, Dec 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-09 11:05:24-05

Aside from a trip to the Chipotle near the Walden Galleria, Casey Mittelstadt hasn't had a chance to explore what Western New York has to offer. If all goes according to plan, that will change later this month. 

Mittelstadt, the Sabres top pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, is expected to log big minutes with Team USA at the upcoming World Juniors. The tournament returns to Buffalo for the second time and gives Mittelstadt a golden opportunity to bring Sabres fans to their feet. Something that didn't take him long to do as a Golden Gopher. 

"I think I definitely needed at least this year for my college development to become a better hockey player first of all," Mittelstadt said. "At the same time, being a Minnesota kid, growing up here, I've been going to Gopher games since I was a really young kid. I remember my dad was always taking me and it kind of became a dream of mine to play here. So for me, I've really been enjoying it and trying to soak it in and it's definitely been what I thought it would be." 

So far, Mittelstadt has lived up to the first round draft pick hype, scoring five goals and registering 15 points in his first 17 games. Golden Gopher fans have given Mittelstadt rave reviews but for the 19-year-old, there is plenty of room for improvement. 

"I think I've had a little bit of a slow start but at the same time, I think my game has adjusted just fine," Mittelstadt added. "I don't think I have to play too much different or do anything too much different at the college level than I did in high school or I did in the USHL, so for me, it has been fine and I'm going to keep adjusting."

Before his season with Minnesota started Mittelstadt spent a long weekend with the Sabres at development camp. It didn't take long to realize the similarities between Buffalo and Minnesota. 

"The first thing I noticed was how great the fans were," Mittelstadt proclaimed. "It's development camp in July and it's 75 degrees and sunny out there and they [fans] could be out on the lake doing whatever they want to do but the stands were packed to watch us practice and play 3-on-3 and I think that was probably my first impression, I thought that was really cool."

During camp, Mittelstadt helped lead his team to a title in the French Connection three-on-three tournament. When he returns to Buffalo for the World Juniors, he'll hope to win another title. 

"I've grown up watching that USA and Canada game my whole life, so, to be able to play in it and have it be outside is kind of just the cherry on top," Mittelstadt specifically said when asked about the USA vs. Canada game at New Era Field on December 29th.  "But like I said, it's definitely a huge game for the tournament and that's going to be one we're going to have to win." 

As for his future, that's still very much up in the air. He doesn't know what's next but to him, that's okay.

"Honestly, I've got no plan," Mittelstadt said when asked about where he sees himself in a few years. "I think I'm just here trying to win a national championship with the guys and hopefully we can do that and then we'll reassess after and see what happens."

In the meantime, Mittelstadt will start to prepare for Team USA's preliminary camp. If he makes the team, which is expected, he'll head to Buffalo in a few weeks. If time permits, Mittelstadt will get to know Western New York. Maybe he'll even pay the Chipotle on Niagara Falls Boulevard a visit.