Buffalo Sabres: Mittelstadt, Nylander offer glimpse of the future

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 2: Casey Mittelstadt
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 2: Casey Mittelstadt /

Friday night was a special occasion for the Buffalo Sabres despite a loss, as their young budding stars provided some much-needed hope.

The season was effectively already over for the Buffalo Sabres entering Friday night. With bottom place in the standings clinched — along with the best odds for the upcoming lottery draft — there was theoretically nothing for fans to get excited about in Tampa Bay.

Yet, by the end of the evening those same fans actually had reason for optimism, despite a 7-5 loss to the Lightning. That’s because Casey Mittelstadt and Alexander Nylander both scored their first NHL goal.

Mittlestadt was first, as he fired home a wrist shot on the power play to tie the game at 1-1. Then it was Nylander’s turn as he tipped a shot in to again tie the game, this time at 2-2; all this less than seven minutes into the opening period.

Nylander’s goal was arguably more desperately needed, while Mittelstadt’s was more impressive. In fact, this is reflected in how their respective NHL careers have started.

The 20-year-old Nylander has struggled to make an impact so far. His goal on Friday night represented just the second overall point in six games over two season.

His colleague on the other hand, has relished his first exposure to the NHL. The 19-year-old Mittelstadt’s goal now makes it four points in five appearances.

The Sabres’ last two first round draft picks were understandably both asked to reflect on scoring their inaugural NHL goal. As reported by Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News, Mittelstadt said:

"“It’s definitely big. It’s just a bit of relief to get the monkey off your back. You’re free to play and it will definitely help going into (Saturday).”"

Nylander also hinted at feeling a great pressure being lifted from his shoulders. Again reported by Harrington, he said:

"“It’s a dream come true, what you dream about when you’re younger. It was a surreal moment and it was just nice that it went in.”"

Of course, there’s still a long way to go for both players. Nylander remained nervous despite finally opening his account, while the one critique you can have about Mittelstadt is he needs to be more aggressive.

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Neither criticism should be taken as a negative though. These are two hugely talented players just getting started on — hopefully for the Sabres — long and successful careers in Western New York.

In that respect, scoring their first NHL goal was important for both youngsters, as well as the fans. At the end of another disappointing campaign for the Buffalo Sabres, we’ve had a glimpse of the future and it hints at brighter days in the near future.

Roll on next season. No, seriously.

Next: Sabres leave their mark on NHL history

Did you get the opportunity to watch the game? If so, what did you make of the respective performances of Nylander and Mittelstadt? Have they given you reason for optimism moving forward, or are you expecting another disappointing campaign next season? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.