Player: Casey Mittelstadt
Position: Center/Left Wing
Height: 6’1” Weight: 201 lbs.
Team: Eden Prairie HS/Green Bay Gamblers(USHL)
Final NHL Central Scouting rank: 3rd among North American skaters
What I Like
Mittelstadt is a goal-scorer. He’s great at creating space for himself and has a deadly snap shot that he can get off with little space and deadly accuracy. He’s arguably the best pure scorer available in the draft.
He is strong and smooth handling the puck. When he is at his best, he has the ability to make it look like everybody else on the ice is moving in slow motion while he dangles around them. He’s tough to defend because he protects the puck well, and has the ability to think a step or two ahead of a defender. Lots of players can react to what a defender does and make a move off of that. Mittelstadt is one of the only players I’ve seen that makes moves based on what a defender is going to do.
This is an under-rated aspect of Mittelstadt’s game, but I think his vision and playmaking sense is tremendous. He made some jaw-dropping passes during the high school season this year. His linemates weren’t always able to capitalize at that level, but that skill should translate really well to the next level.
The biggest improvement that Mittelstadt has made over the past few years is with his skating. He started to grow into his body and really improved his foot speed, which is what took him from being a good player to being an elite player. I don’t think he’ll be an elite skater at the NHL level, but he’s certainly fast enough that he’ll be able to create opportunities for himself.
What I Don’t Like
Not good at things that aren’t hockey
Let’s get this out of the way right now. Casey Mittelstadt can not make a decent paella. The rice is soggy, the seafood overcooked. It’s inedible. I have no idea why he didn’t learn. It’s very easy to go on the internet and find a recipe. But alas, he did not, and he is terrible at making it. Some blessed souls think this matters a great deal.
An actual, legitimate concern about Mittelstadt is that a very high percentage of his USHL points came on the man advantage, raising questions about his ability to create at even strength. I don’t have major concerns about this. There’s no reason his incredible skills couldn’t translate over to even strength, and generating scoring on the power play isn’t exactly a bad thing either.
The top two overall picks seem more or less set. I’m sure there will be all sorts of talk and speculation between now and Friday, but ultimately, I’d be very surprised if Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier weren’t the first two names off the board. After that, anything is a possibility for Mittelstadt. He’s not a sure-bet to be a superstar, but in terms of star offensive potential, I think he may be the best bet after those first two.
In terms of what will actually happen at the Draft, I’ll guess Gabe Vilardi and maybe Cody Glass go ahead of him, and two defensemen go ahead of him. I’d expect Mittelstadt to be picked somewhere around the 7th or 8th overall pick.
Mittelstadt heads to the University of Minnesota next season where he’ll be expected to be an immediate contributor to the Gophers. As for how soon he’ll contribute at the NHL level, he could possibly be ready after one season if he has a big year. But Mittelstadt has shown the willingness to be patient with his development, and it wouldn’t hurt him to develop a little more physically with a collegiate strength training program.
As far as potential, Mittlestadt is a special offensive talent and if all goes as expected, he could be a top line winger at the NHL level for a very long time. He may be a bit more boom-or-bust than some of the other prospects in the early first round, but his potential ceiling may be the highest of anyone in the draft. The sick natural scoring ability, going to Minnesota, the meaningless Combine controversy, the somewhat schlumpy physique. All of it screams to me the second-coming of Phil Kessel, which is about as good as you could hope to get out of this year’s draft.