Buffalo Sabres: When will Casey Mittelstadt turn pro?

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 31: Casey Mittelstadt
BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 31: Casey Mittelstadt /

Fresh off an impressive showing at the World Junior tournament, thoughts turns to when Casey Mittelstadt will sign his entry level deal with the Buffalo Sabres?

When the Buffalo Sabres selected Casey Mittelstadt in last year’s NHL draft, it was a somewhat surprising move. Partly because the Sabres were expected to address their blue line issues, but also because Mittelstadt was not projected to still be available at the eighth spot.

Regardless, it was tough to argue with picking a player whose offensive game was described as “electric”. Throw in the analysis that he has superior puck skills, along with a high-level hockey IQ and it all adds up to an enticing prospect.

The only real concern surrounding the 19-year-old, related to his lack of strength. However, this was something he could work on, while playing for the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the 2017/18 college season.

No doubt a lot of Buffalo Sabres fans will have wondered about Mittelstadt’s progress. In that respect, they got an answer recently, along with an up close look at his development.

That’s because Buffalo hosted the 42nd World Junior Hockey Championship between Dec. 26 – Jan. 5. And while the United States had to settle for Bronze, Mittelstadt shone on the big stage.

The Edina, Minnesota native finished tied for the tournament lead with 11 points in seven games (four goals and seven assists). As a result, he took home MVP honors.

United States captain Joey Anderson wasn’t remotely surprised by what his teammate achieved. As reported by John Wawrow of the Associated Press, Anderson said:

"“He’s got a whole arsenal of fun stuff to watch. When we were younger, he’d pull stuff out of his hat that were awesome moves.”"

Mittelstadt’s electric talent was best exemplified by scoring arguably the goal of the tournament against Slovakia. However, don’t just take our word for it:

As you can well imagine, the goal made a lot of people sit up and take notice, including Jason Botterill. As per Wawrow, the Sabres’ general manager said:

"“What I was really impressed about that goal was certainly it was a beautiful, beautiful hockey play, but it was the timing of it. Here was a scenario where he was trying to give his team a spark in a crucial situation. I think that’s certainly what we need here in Buffalo.”"

Understandably, this leads to the question of when Mittelstadt will turn pro? After all, the Buffalo Sabres are bottom of the Eastern Conference, with the second-worst record in the league.

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Throw in the fact the Sabres have scored the fewest goals in the NHL and there is no doubt they could use a spark. However, the chances are the team and their fans will have to wait some time yet.

As noted by Wawrow, Botterill admitted he wants the youngster to continue developing at the college level at this stage. As such, the GM will wait until after the Gophers’ season concludes, before meeting him to discuss his future.

Only then, will a decision be made on whether or not Mittelstadt will be offered an entry level deal, to turn pro. While this can’t come soon enough for some people, it is good that Botterill and the organisation are being patient with the player, no matter how bad things are for the Sabres.

Next: 3 Sabres who deserved to go to the All-Star Game

Did you get to see Mittelstadt play at the World Junior tournament? Make did you take away from his performances? In your opinion, when do you believe would be a good time for him to turn pro with the Buffalo Sabres? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.