Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2017 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
Center Casey Mittelstadt has some unfinished business this season on his to-do list as a senior at Eden Prairie High School in Minnesota.
Though he had 33 goals and 80 points in 31 regular-season and playoff games last season, what Mittelstadt remembers most is a 5-3 loss to Wayzata in the Minnesota Class AA state championship game. It's one reason he decided to return to Eden Prairie for his senior season.
"I've played with a lot of those guys [on Eden Prairie] since I was 5 or 6 years old, and my youngest hockey memories are all with the same guys that will be part of our team this year," said Mittelstadt, 17. "I owe it to myself and to them to go back and play one more year."
Mittelstadt (6-foot-1, 201 pounds) has been fine-tuning his game prior to the high school season with Green Bay of the United States Hockey League. He leads the USHL with 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) and 14 power-play points, and ranks second with 1.43 points per game average in 14 games. He'll join Eden Prairie on Nov. 14 and begin the 20-game regular season against Cretin-Derham Hall on Dec. 1. He'll return to Green Bay after the high school season.
The left-shot center was named the USHL/CCM Forward of the Week on Monday after he had two goals and six points in two wins for Green Bay.
Green Bay coach Pat Mikesch said he respects Mittelstadt's decision to return to Eden Prairie for a chance at a state championship.
"We like being a part of his development path; these months we have together in the beginning of the year is a great step for him," Mikesch said. "Just learning to play in tough environments on the road. It'll be exciting to have him back at the end of the year at a very important time for us."
Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting, considers Mittelstadt the real deal when it comes to impact players in the 2017 draft. The University of Minnesota recruit is an A-rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list.
"Casey is one of these anomalies that comes along every few years," Marr said. "We've watched him play against his peers in international tournaments and seen him play in the USHL and various camps, and he always makes a difference. It doesn't really matter where he plays, because you get the same game from him, no matter the environment."
Mittelstadt is hoping for an opportunity to celebrate the same way Eden Prairie did at the 2011 state Class AA final at Xcel Energy Center, when it beat Duluth East on a goal in triple overtime by Kyle Rau.
Rau, chosen in the third round (No. 91) of the 2011 draft by the Florida Panthers, dove headfirst and slid the puck into the back of the net with 3:17 left in the third overtime.
"I couldn't believe that he dove and shot the puck in," Mittelstadt said. "It's super famous in Minnesota and that's part of my best memories. I was there at the game in someone's suite that was rented. We were just sitting there and then Rau scores and we were so psyched."
Last season Mittelstadt had 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists) in six playoff games, but the memory of the loss to Wayzata in the Class AA championship game still stings.
Mittelstadt also might contend for the Mr. Hockey award as the best senior boys hockey player in Minnesota, won by Rau in 2011. Rau and New York Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy, who won Mr. Hockey in 2009, are the only players from Eden Prairie to win the prestigious honor.
"I guess winning Mr. Hockey would be cool, but my No. 1 goal is winning states," Mittelstadt said. "That's the main dream. I think I'm a creative forward, have good vision and I like to have the puck on my stick and make plays. I think I play the best when I have the puck, and I want to make a play every time I have the puck."
Mikesch said Mittelstadt usually is on his most productive offensive line.
"He doesn't play as much penalty kill as he does power play, but penalty kill is not a deficiency in his game at all," Mikesch said. "His play on the power play has come a long way. He's very comfortable in what we're trying to accomplish and he's got the ability to shoot pucks. He's scored goals off the rush, but at the same time he sees everything that's going on."
Mittelstadt prefers playing center rather than left wing because he enjoys the freedom of dictating play with the puck on his stick. He played center at the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Philadelphia on Sept. 22 and had two goals and was named player of the game .
"Casey is electric; we had Nick Schmaltz (Chicago Blackhawks) here a couple of years ago and Casey has a very similar skill set, and probably plays at a faster pace than Nick did," Mikesch said. "Casey's offensive attack is extremely impressive, and his small area skills are at an elite level."