Kris Baker is once again counting down his list of top prospects available in the NHL Draft for Sabres.com. The first round of the 2017 NHL Draft will take place on June 23 in Chicago.
Team: Green Bay (USHL)
A late-1998 birthdate committed to the University of Minnesota, Casey Mittelstadt is extremely agile with a very quick set of hands and a dogged work ethic. He is a superior stickhandler and playmaker who can string together electrifying shifts in the offensive zone, but perhaps his greatest strides taken in the past calendar year have come when building a complete 200-foot game.
While Mittelstadt has cemented his top-six forward projection at the NHL level with his vision and sense, he has also made a mark as a fierce competitor with his ability to pressure the puck, battle along the walls, and simply do what it takes to be a difference maker in all three zones for the full 60 minutes.
Mittelstadt firmly placed himself on the radar as a high-end offensive commodity following an encouraging performance at the 2016 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, where he potted four goals and nine points in seven games.
Instead of accelerating his studies and joining the Gophers this season, Mittelstadt elected to take an extra year to develop and join his childhood friends in pursuit of a high school state championship. That decision paid off in spades despite coming up short of his ultimate goal.
After scoring twice in the 2016 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game to snag the game's Most Valuable Player honor, Mittelstadt began the year playing 16 games with the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League, compiling eight goals and 21 points.
From there Mittelstadt returned to Eden Prairie High School for his senior season. He'd pour in 21 goals and 64 points in 25 games with the Eagles, earning the 2017 Mr. Hockey Award as the best high school player in the state of Minnesota along the way.
Following a loss in the state semifinal, Mittlestadt returned to Green Bay to produce five goals and nine points in the final eight regular season contests, finishing the year with 30 points (13+17) in 24 games to lead the entire USHL with 1.25 points per game.
Hands down the top American-born talent in the draft, Mittelstadt may very well be a candidate as a "one and done" collegian if his drafting team wants to fast track him to the NHL as his mind, body and skill set could quickly match up with the world's best.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker's website, SabresProspects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects).
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