As the season’s conclusion rapidly encroaches upon us, the injection of youth in the Canucks’ lineup grants their fan base excitement for next season and many beyond. The high draft pick their season affords them in June means we can start looking ahead to the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and players that will further that same cause.
There will obviously be some change in where the Canucks finish and what pick they get. There is still 2 weeks of games and the draft lottery to be settled. But it allows us to look at some of the players that may be available in the range that the organization is expected to select at.
Which brings us to Casey Mittlestadt.
It wasn’t difficult to connect the dots between the Canucks and Mittelstadt, a 6’1″, 200 lb centre.
- The Canucks have an organizational need for a playmaking centre
- They have a strong track record when drafting from the USHL/NCAA ranks
- He’s really good
The Province’s Jason Botchford affirmed this thought process in Sunday night’s edition of The Provies, suggesting the Canucks have interest in Mittelstadt and have been scouting him extensively.
The Canucks keeping tabs on Mittelstadt doesn’t guarantee they’ll select him in June, but it certainly suggests he’s on their radar. That makes him a player worth examining.
Mittelstadt is committed to attend the University of Minnesota.
So, let’s dive in and take a look at the Eden Prairie, Minnesota native.
An electric offensive presence on the ice, Casey Mittelstadt brings the complete package of speed, skill, and hockey sense. He competes hard with every shift, and has the dynamic puck skills to keep up with his creativity, which is a hallmark of his game. His awareness is all-encompassing, and he never puts his teammates in positions where their time and space will be bottlenecked. Bigger players don’t phase him, as he thinks the game analytically and will find chinks in the opposition’s armor on the fly. As a result, Mittelstadt is often seen forcing more complicated plays that the opposition won’t be able to read in time. On top of all this, he can play a north-south game, and his transition game is already at an elite level. He’s a complete player with the predatory instincts necessary to succeed as a consistent and, perhaps, dominant point producer at the next level.
A smart, quick and highly skilled center…has a tremendous first-step jump, change of pace and ability to make defenders miss…though not the biggest or strongest player on the ice, he finds success in loose puck battles by using his smarts and insane ability to shield the puck from defenders…never takes a shift off, and has added noticeable muscle and speed this season…will finish chances with a quick release on a wrister or powerful snap shot…puckhandling skills are excellent and he is able to create scoring chances in almost all of his offensive-zone shifts using his great vision and understanding of the game
The video below includes some of the highlights from above but also includes USHL, USHS and international play.
Mittelstadt won bronze with the U.S. U18 team at last summer’s U18 Junior Championships. He was also named the USHS Minnesota Mr Hockey this month, awarded to the best high school player in Minnesota.
That Mittelstadt played his hockey in high school came with concerns as gauging his production at such a lower level of competition was difficult. He’d appeared in the U18 and USNTDP programs and dominated, but questions remained about his ability to do that with consistency.
In this, his draft season, Mittelstadt started with the Green Bay Gamblers, before returning to high school, only to rejoin the Gamblers again. It’s important to find out why he returned in his draft year. Luckily Mike Morreale on NHL.com spoke to Mittelstadt in November:
“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.”
Three days later, he played his final game in the USHL and headed back to Eden Prairie. Unfortunately, they finished third.
This isn’t to say that looking at his high school numbers with concern isn’t valid, but the reasoning behind him wanting to go back is solvent. He returned to the USHL on March 17 and has torn it up since then, with 8 points in 5 games.
With that, here is the point breakdown for Mittelstadt in the USHL this year – the break in the PPG line is where he returned to USHS (November 12, 2016, until March 17, 2017):
That production in the USHL is why Mittelstadt is firmly planting himself in the top five in consolidated draft rankings.
At the 2016 U18 World Championships, Mittelstadt finished with nine points (4-5-9) in seven games for the US. He finished fourth in points on that team behind Clayton Keller, Kailer Yamamoto, and Logan Brown. He was also fourth in 2017 draft eligible forwards behind the aforementioned Yamamoto, Eeli Tolvanen and Lias Andersson — all of whom are expected to be first-round selections.
He will be unable to participate in this year’s tournament as he is already 18-years-old.
Mittelstadt is currently at 1.33 PPG in the USHL, good for first in the entire league. I compiled some names, during their draft season, from the past two years to compare that rate with Mittelstadt:
It’s important to note; I didn’t collect the data on every player in the USHL who was eligible for the draft. This is merely looking at players who were highly rated and would be prominent names. If we used every player, it would create clutter.
After their draft season, the players took different routes like the NCAA, CHL, or AHL. But it is encouraging to see where Mittelstadt lines up. (2018 draft eligible forward Andrei Svechnikov is at 1.22 in his D-1 season. Watch out.)
On the flip side, there is concern about his point production, as 18 of his 28 points have come on the powerplay. He is also riding a shooting high with a shooting percentage of 20.4%. For comparison sake, Boeser ended the 2014-15 season with a 14.5% SH%.
Furthermore, 32 of Boeser’s 68 points in the 2014-15 season were on the powerplay. USHL seems to have extreme powerplay production compared to their CHL counterparts.
As a side note, it’s worth mentioning that Mittelstadt currently has 0 PIM in the USHL. In 21 games, zero penalty minutes.
When we use pGPS to take a look at Mittelstadt, it shows a 50% success rate. Unfortunately, due to the lack of a useful sample size with the USHL, this number is flawed. There are only four matches to Mittelstadt. Over time, the pool of players will increase and thus allow a more in-depth view, but at this moment, we are limited.
Given that consideration, we can take a look at Mittelstadt as if he was in the CHL.
Jeremy Davis explains the graph above:
While league adjusted numbers we’re used to search for comparables, the numbers used for this graph were *not* league adjusted. As a result, USHL and QMJHL might be a little higher on the y-axis than they should be, while WHL and OHL numbers are a little lower. But seeing as the graph drew names from the list of comparables generated with league adjusted numbers, the names that actually appear on the chart are the correct ones
Furthermore, he explains why crossing over to the CHL is beneficial in this area:
The USHL is a league that has made great improvements in the last 10 years, and now produces NHL players at a rate that has surpassed the QMJHL and is becoming more similar to the WHL and OHL. But in order to generate a satisfying sample of USHL comparables, players from as far back as 1990 are used – a time in which a far lower percentage of players was likely to be noticed and move to the next level. Adjusting production numbers and comparing them against the CHL, where the graduation of players has been relatively stable for decades, allows us to view the USHL with more modern expectations.
My comments to start about the reasons why the Canucks would be interested in Mittelstadt were brought to bring some levity to the situation. But those points are still valid. They are in need of centre depth, and although it is best to take the best available player with the high picks, this draft class doesn’t present enough variance in the three-to-eight range to make taking a centre a bad decision. They need players everywhere, but Mittelstadt may be hard to pass up.
They have shown a track record of successfully drafting out of the USHL, look no further than Boeser, Adam Gaudette and to a lesser degree William Lockwood. They trust their US scouts, and rightfully so.
When I suggest with Mittelstadt is ‘really good’, however aloof and base a statement, it holds weight. He’s a great prospect, and there isn’t a player in the Canucks’ pool of his calibre.
There are some obvious concerns about his limited USHL action, which includes high powerplay production and unsustainable shooting percentage. Add that he hasn’t spent the full season in the USHL, and there are ‘red flags’ with which to be concerned.
However, this is precisely why you combine stats and eye test to come to the best conclusion possible. Regardless, his production is impressive, and when you see him play, he is making plays; creating havoc with his speed, vision, and puck moving abilities.
There is a reason why Mittelstadt is currently fourth in most people’s rankings and why he’s surpassed players like Owen Tippett and Gabe Vilardi.
If the Canucks miss out on a top two pick, a future of Bo Horvat and Casey Mittelstadt as the one-two punch down the middle doesn’t look too bad. Dare to dream.