Casey Mittelstadt was twice named American Family Insurance ALL-USA Boys Hockey Player of the Year, the most recent selection coming less than a year ago.
Ever since, it has been a whirlwind several months for Mittelstadt. The standout player has gone from graduation at Eden Prairie (Minn.) High, to being drafted No. 8 overall by the Buffalo Sabres, to playing his freshman season at the University of Minnesota, to starring for the United States at the World Juniors.
The biggest step yet comes Thursday night, as the 19-year-old Mittelstadt will make his NHL debut when the Sabres host the Detroit Red Wings.
As a senior at Eden Prairie, the 6-foot, 200-pound center scored 23 goals and dished out 49 assists in 30 games. He won the state’s Mr. Hockey award and was the Star Tribune’s All-Metro Player of the Year. He scored a point in all but two games and he had multiple assists 14 times.
At Minnesota, Mittelstadt scored 11 goals with 19 assists in 30 games.
The NHL is a long way from public school high school hockey or even NCAA hockey, but Mittelstadt told the Buffalo News this is a moment he has been thinking about for some time.
“At World Juniors, it crosses your mind simply because it’s in Buffalo,” Mittelstadt told the News. “You can see yourself playing in this rink, in this setting in the future. I don’t know if I had a specific schedule or time frame at the time.
“When the time came and I had some time to sit down and think and talk with my family about things, I think this was the right decision for me.”
According to the News, Mittelstadt was centering the team’s third line during morning skate.
“There’s no pressure on him,” Sabres head coach Phil Housley told the News. “We just want him to be a part of our group and just play his game and the simplicity of it. That’s manage his shift lengths and just get comfortable.”
The Sabres are currently the worst team in the NHL, with a record of 24-40-12.
The News reported that Mittelstadt also patrolled the top of the team’s second power play unit during morning skate, a role he may take into Thursday’s contest.
“I’ve been on both flanks pretty much my whole life,” Mittelstadt said, “so either one is completely fine with me.”
In a year of constant transition, it would appear Mittelstadt is used to being put into whatever situation presents itself.