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Sharpen Up: June 24, 2017

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

CHICAGO - Round 1 of the NHL Draft is in the books and Day Two is here bright and early. It's a 9 a.m. start for Round 2 here in the Windy City and the picks are going to be made fast and furiously. 

Last night, the Sabres selected Casey Mittelstadt eighth overall. Today, they hold five picks, including two in the second round (37th and 54th overall). 

Here's what you need to know.


Meet Casey

This is Casey Mittelstadt. He's your newest Buffalo Sabre.  

Mittelstadt, listed at 6-foot-1, 201 pounds, was No. 3 on Central Scouting's list of top North American-based skaters and was also ranked third in Kris Baker of's Top 31. He split time last season between the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL and his high school team, where he made a run for the state title. 

 Video: 1-on-1 with Casey Mittelstadt

 Video: Meet Casey Mittelstadt

Video: Thomas Mittelstadt on his son Casey being drafted

This is a taste of what Baker thinks of the highly touted prospect:

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.

Check out Baker's full analysis here.

He's the first prospect Baker and Brian Duff talked about when they were going over which forwards the Sabres could select at No. 8 during our Prospect Avenue video series:

Video: Prospect Avenue is back for a second season

Mittelstadt led the USHL with 1.25 points per game in 2016-17, posting 30 points (13+17) in 24 games for the Green Bay Gamblers. He also ranked second among Gamblers skaters in game-winning goals (4) and power-play assists (13) despite playing in fewer than half of the team's games.

A native of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Mittelstadt also played 25 games for Eden Prairie High last season, where he posted a team-high 64 points (21+43) and was named Minnesota's Mr. Hockey, given annually to the most outstanding high school player in Minnesota. 

He was really excited to meet new Sabres coach Phil Housley, a Minnesota high school hockey prodigy back in his day. From Jourdon LaBarber's recap last night:

But really, could there be a more fitting pick for an organization that just recently hired a Minnesota high school legend as its head coach than the Minnesota boy who chose to return to Eden Prairie High as a senior last season for one last shot at a state title? Mittelstadt was greeted by Phil Housley on stage, and meeting him was enough to bring a smile to his face.

"That's awesome," he said. "I just met him for the first time five minutes ago. Being able to meet him was obviously an honor. He's done pretty much everything you can in hockey and being from Minny is just kind of a cherry on top."

Internationally, Mittelstadt won a bronze medal for the United States at the 2016 IIHF World U18 Championship, where he tied for sixth in tournament scoring with nine points (4+5) in seven games. Will we see him suit up in Buffalo for Team USA at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in December? We'll see.

He started the season in Green Bay, but decided to go back to play with his high school team in order to compete for a coveted state championship. His team, however, was bounced in the semifinal round of the state tournament. He returned to Green Bay and racked up six points in three games during his first week back.

To find out why the desire to win that state title was so important to him, check out this story from Jourdon.


Notes from the GM

Jason Botterill met with the media before and after the draft yesterday. We'll hear from him after Round 7 today, but let's look back at what he had to say on Friday.

Here is in the morning, talking about possible scenarios in the draft and a few other roster issues, like goaltending prospect Cal Petersen likely signing with another team when he hits free agency next week. 

Video: Jason Botterill's Pre-Draft Interview

Here's Botterill after the draft, happy with the fact that they've added a player of Mittelstadt's caliber to the organization. 

Video: Jason Botterill After Round 1

"Between [picks] seven and eight, you're excited but we were also very confident," Botterill said. "There was no discussion. We felt Casey was the player that we wanted to select at that position there."

Pegula lauded for commitment to college hockey

Video: Terry Pegula part of college hockey announcement

Before the Draft began, owner Terry Pegula was a participant in a news conference that also included NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHLPA Special Assistant to the Executive Director Mathieu Schneider, Chicago Blackhawks President and CEO John McDonough, University of Illinois Director of Athletics Josh Whitman, and USA Hockey Executive Director Pat Kelleher spoke at the press conference.   

The reason? 

The National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) announced that they will partner with the University of Illinois to evaluate the possible addition of hockey as a varsity sport. 

In an effort to support the growth of collegiate hockey, the NHLPA and NHL will fund feasibility studies exploring the potential of adding NCAA Division I men's and women's hockey programs at five institutions across the United States. Illinois is the first university to participate in the study.

Terry and Kim Pegula's $102 million donation to Penn State in 2010 established Division I men's and women's hockey programs at the school in a new state-of-the-art rink. The success Penn State has had has helped open the eyes of schools like Illinois to the positives of having strong hockey programs. 

Penn State earned a No. 1 ranking last season and won the Big 10 Tournament to punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament. 

"Terry was a groundbreaker here," Schneider said. "Maybe if not for the great success of his program, we might not be having this conversation."


Let's turn our attention to today's action

Buffalo is set to select:

2nd Round: 37th and 54th overall

3rd Round: 89th Overall

4th Round: 99th Overall

7th Round: 192nd Overall

Who could the Sabres target? Glad you asked. And that's why we put together this Deeper Sleepers episode of Prospect Avenue!

Video: Prospect Avenue: Kris Baker's Deeper Sleepers for '17

Bakes and Duffer also talked goalies. 

Video: Prospect Avenue: Goaltenders

Some of these prospects could end up getting selected today by Buffalo, and you can tell your friends that you heard about them first here. Keep track of all the selections here and stay tuned to all day long as we'll bring you on-site coverage. 


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