Another play-making centre that has scouts fantasizing about his potential is Minnesota native Casey Mittelstadt. The very competitive centre will undoubtedly hear his name called in the top 10 at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, and could even be selected as early as 3rd overall just because of the dynamic skillset he possesses.
The Eden Prairie, Minnesota native had an unconventional draft year that had him splitting his season between high school hockey and the USHL. Usually, playing high school hockey in your draft eligible season isn't a good way to make a name for yourself simply because the skill level is a such a drastic step down compared to major junior that it creates doubt in the players game. But the reasoning for Mittelstadt to play at that level for part of the season could actually be taken as positive, showing what kind of player he is.
Growing up in Minnesota, the high school hockey tournament is a must for any player. They grow up with dreams of capturing that title. For Mittelstadt, despite putting up 9 points in three games during the tournament in 2015-16, the Eden Prairie Eagles lost in the finals. That left him and his teammates wanting more. So rather than taking the easy path in his NHL draft eligible season, Mittelstadt adjusted his season to try and help his high school team capture the title this year.
He started the season in the USHL with the Green Bay Gamblers, then went back to Eden Prairie from November until March. Unfortunately, despite Mittelstadt's best efforts, the Eagles were unable to capture the title.
After the disappointing outcome, Mittelstadt went back to the USHL and picked up right where he left off. The easier route would've been to commit to the USHL for the year or to head to the NCAA a season early but returning to high school level hockey to try and capture a title with his old teammates shows what kind of character the young pivot has. He wants to win so badly, that he is willing to do anything to make it happen.
Video: Casey Mittelstadt - Prospect Profile
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound centre is a fast, skilled playmaker who has been doing everything possible to develop his skills. He has electric skill that fills you up with a sense of anticipation as he picks up speed. He creates confusion for the opposing team with his vision, speed, and play making abilities as they have to quickly adapt and adjust to try and contain him. He is a tireless worker in all three zones on the ice with great stop and starts and acceleration.
On and off the ice, Mittelstadt is working hard to be the best player he can be.
The intangibles word gets thrown around a lot in hockey to describe things that may be hard to track but Mittelstadt has those intangibles in spades. He does everything you could ask for and it's a big reason why scouts are so captivated by him as a player.
Looking at Mittelstadt's USHL production, he had gaps in production but still led the league in points-per-game with 1.25. He never went a game without a shot on goal. When you compare that rate against some of the top prospects over the last few years, he is in some great company.
If there was one concern about Mittelstadt's season is that 18 of his 30 total points were accumulated on the powerplay. That's 60% of his total production and should be something that is worth noting. However, when looking at his overall play, he did suffer some bad bounces or his teammates not finishing their chances at even strength. On the positive side of that situational breakdown, those 18 power-play points were 5 goals and 13 assists with the majority of those assists being primary.
Ideally, the production would be more balanced but that doesn't take away from the complete 200-foot game that Mittelstadt plays.
Mittelstadt is committed to play for the University of Minnesora Gophers for the 2017-18 season. He will need to to work on his puck skills, round out his game and continue to add muscle mass, but he should have a productive Freshman season in the NCAA next year.
Canucks management has shown a track record of selecting players out of the USHL, and Mittelstadt could be another one of those players this June. He is a very skilled playmaker who makes everyone around him better. He pushes the play and does those little things right. If Mittelstadt is still on the board at 5th overall, it won't be surprising to see him put on that Canucks sweater in Chicago.