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World Juniors

Mittelstadt making impact at World Junior Summer Showcase

Sabres forward prospect motivated after not getting invited to 2017 WJC final selection camp

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PLYMOUTH, Mich. -- Forward Casey Mittelstadt (Buffalo Sabres) doesn't just want to play for the United States at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.

He plans to be a dominant offensive force.

"There's unfinished business," Mittelstadt said. "Everywhere I go I want to be one of the main contributors and make a lot of plays on the ice. That's what I think I do best."

 

[RELATED: World Junior Summer Showcase schedule]

 

Mittelstadt arguably has been the best player for the U.S. during the World Junior Summer Showcase. He has eight points (three goals, five assists) in four games, including two goals and two assists for USA White in an 8-2 victory against Canada Red on Tuesday, and two assists in a 3-2 U.S. win against Sweden on Wednesday.

The U.S. has two games remaining, against Finland on Friday (4 p.m. ET; NHLN) and Canada on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN).

"He's so confident," coach Bob Motzko said. "His talent level is off the charts."

Video: Casey Mittelstadt on Team USA's win in the WJSS

Mittelstadt has played left wing on what's been the most productive U.S. line so far, with center Logan Brown (Ottawa Senators) and right wing Kailer Yamamoto (Edmonton Oilers).

"Me, [Brown and Yamamoto] made a lot of quick little passes and were moving and trying to find some open areas, and I think that's what we do really well together and that's when I'm at my best," Mittelstadt said.

Mittelstadt's inspired play is a remnant of last year's Summer Showcase, when he was an early cut and then wasn't invited to the final selection camp for the 2017 WJC in December.

"Obviously it was tough," he said. "You want to make it and be here as long as you can. At the same time it was a good learning lesson."

Mittelstadt had a strong 2016-17 with Eden Prairie (Minn.) High School and Green Bay of the United States Hockey League. He averaged 2.56 points in 25 high school games and led the USHL with 1.25 points in 24 games. The Sabres chose him with the eighth pick of the 2017 NHL Draft.

Despite not being part of the U.S. team that won the gold medal at the 2017 World Juniors, Mittelstadt watched as much of the tournament as he could.

"Even though I wasn't there I was still cheering for them," he said. "I had good buddies on the team, lot of Minnesota guys on the team."

Now he's back for this year's Summer Showcase more comfortable and feeling like he can display the full scope of his talent.

Video: Sabres draft F Casey Mittelstadt No. 8

"I'm a little more confident and comfortable," he said. "I know more what to expect, know the guys I'm playing against. I think that's the main difference. … Just try to come in and try to play my best. For me, I'm pretty comfortable and know the guys really well. … It helped me a lot to get back here and know what to expect. I came here ready to go this year and [want to] keep playing well."

There's a lot of time between the Summer Showcase and the 2018 WJC, which will be held Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Buffalo. And Mittelstadt knows the start to the NCAA season with Minnesota will be big for him to have a chance to play in the tournament in front of his future home NHL fans. But Motzko has liked what he's seen so far, and expects to see more moving forward.

"Real impressed with how he's carrying himself," Motzko said. "If you're an athlete and you're competitive and it was taken away from you a year ago, this is his chance, this is his year. He's stood up and made some noise."

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