Casey Mittelstadt and the Canucks

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.

Scouting Reports

Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects:

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.

Future Considerations

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.


More Stats

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.

  • apr

    I really like this player, and I am sure that one of Colorado, Phoenix, and New Jersey will pick up a defenseman. Assuming the Nucks pick 5, I think it will come down to Middlestad or Vilardi – unless Benning thinks he can move down the draft and get an asset if Cody Glass is his center of preference.

    • Jabs

      Couldn’t agree more. JB has stated before he was watching USHL games so one would thing this is his player.
      The only factor not discussed is how the pre-draft interviews go which often can change the opinion of a GM. If Middlestad comes across that he would never want to sign in Vancouver then the next best option may be Glass.

  • HockeyTruther69

    good article biech. casey littlestadt (I call him that cause he played against little kids this year) is worthy of top 5 consideratin and would be a fantastic addition to the prospect pool. HOWEVER, him being ranked 3-6 this draft shows how poor this draft is. Last year he’d be in the 11-15 range. Just a thought

  • Bro Horvat

    Excellent breakdown, I’m a big fan of Middlestadt. Unless we end up with terrible luck in the lottery we should have a pretty good shot at getting a top-line center (Patrick, Hirschier, Vilardi, Middlestadt). I’d prefer Vilardi over Middlestadt but it’s a close race and I’d be stoked with either.

  • Spiel

    Canucks need a center more than anything and it appears like the top of this draft is full of them. Seems like a case where best player available will intersect with organizational need.
    Look forward to seeing which of Middlestadt, Petterson, Vilardi, Glass or Necas the Canucks Army writers want to tab as the player to pick after Patrick and Hischier.

    • Don’t forget that Benning has hinted that he may draft a defenceman so while it’s highly likely we’ll get a centre as the BPA, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Benning will pull a Juolevi and go with the D-man. I guess it also depends on whether he trades some of his defensive depth for a centre prior to the draft.

    • Chris the Curmudgeon

      Agreed, despite the much discussed weakness this year, the one place where it does seem deeper is at center, and as you say, that’s exactly what we are looking for. Barring an ill-timed winning streak to end the year, one of the more promising ones seems likely to be available in the slots where the Canucks will pick.

  • Burnabybob

    If the Canucks finish the season where they are now, they are most likely to pick 7th. (Like last year, they are mathematically most likely to move down two spots in the draft, and Las Vegas is seeded ahead of them in the lottery, at 3rd.)

    Necas might be a good pick, and I would be interested to read a write-up on him. I also find Liljegren and Makar intriguing. They’re two promising young players who could add some mobility and offense to the Canucks defensive corps. Liljegren may be seriously undervalued, as he has suffered mono this year. He’s also a right-handed shot, which the Canucks need. Jacob Chychrun dropped in last year’s draft, and he’s had an impressive rookie season as an 18 year old. If Liljegren falls to 7th, Benning should take a hard look at him.

  • Roy

    “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.”

    This is a really poorly written paragraph. Normally things do not “rapidly encroach” – the sea encroaches but it is more like slow, erosive movement than anything that is rapid. Rapid + encroach are not a common collocation, and readable professional writing sprinkles consistent collocations. “The high draft pick their season affords them” is really awkward. How about, “The Canucks can likely look forward to another top-five draft pick, and…” – finally “and many beyond” – their is no implied subject.

    That’s just the first paragraph. If these are the kinds of articles upon which you build your case for a stats-based/analytics site, you need an editor. Badly.

    And anyone who protests “IT’S A BLOG” – if the site is here to draw revenue and pay its contributors, it’s journalism. If it has an audience, as opposed to fans, it’s journalism. A modicum of written professionalism can be expected and it is liable to criticism. I want to read articles like this, but I don’t want to do so with a look of profound “wtf” on my face.

  • Holmes

    Drafting Mittelstadt seems reasonable, even enticing. But is the kid around at #7 if that’s the Canucks’ slot? Colorado grabs Patrick, Arizona could suprise and take a d man (Liljegren) with their depth at centre. Vegas goes for a centre (Nico), New Jersey badly needs D (Necas). Then the two teams that nut kick us out of the 5 slot, one takes Vilardi, the other takes Mittelstadt. We are left with…..aspirations to let New Jersey pass us in the final standings. Go Jersey.

  • Pat Quinn Way

    As Jimmy Vesey has already shown, these college kid draftees have way too much power in calling their own shots imo, so personally with so much parity outside of the top 2, I would prefer to pick a centre or offensive D stud from the other available avenues.

    One thing is for sure, having missed big time on young superstar Matt Tkachuk (this kid is already front page news) Benning needs to hit an NHL ready home run like GMMG did with our best player Bo Horvat in order to put bums-in-seats, sell season tickets and give the fanbase something to get excited about again.

    Right now it’s simply too many plugs and not enough sparks!

    • DJ_44

      Comments like this demonstrates exactly what is wrong with a Canucks fanbase that claims they want a rebuild, yet cries when management continues to execute a longer term strategy of development, and building a future core.

      We need to draft the best player for the team overall. If he is one or two years away, so be it. Juolevi will be a stud at the NHL level. No doubt. The fact that he is a half year younger than Tkachuk, and has a bigger frame that will round out as he gets older appears to be lost on some .

      Reach for the sugar fix, instead of solid protein and veg….it makes you feel better right away… but the rush quickly dies.

    • Van94

      Might be a bit early to label Juolevi a big time miss. Yes Tkachuk is very good “superstar” might be going a bit far. we wont know that for awhile. Yes Bennings approach is conservative. He did not pick out of order and neither did Calgary. Tryamkin Stetcher and Hutton were NHL ready home runs. Seems that you might be comparing Tkachuk to nothing , Juolevi is likely far from nothing. But still there will be some misses.

  • TD

    Middelstadt has 18 out of 28 points scored on the PP, but is still being recommended while the biggest reason CA has stated the Canucks shouldn’t take Rasmussen is that he score too much on the PP and not enough 5 v 5. Why the inconsistency?

    • Ryan Biech

      Addressed that, in the post:
      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.

  • TimfromAnahim

    Excellent column, the kind of thing that CA excels at. Looking forward to similar stories on other relevant draft prospects. I would be very surprised if Vancouver did not take the opportunity to pick a play-making center with Henrik nearing the end of the road. You can’t get them any other way. One day Virtanen will be a force, Juolevi will be looking like the second coming of Lidstrom, the 2017 selection will be 1A or 1B with Horvat in the middle, and we already have a stable of highly skilled wingers and young D. Perhaps then JB will get his due.

  • Neil B

    And, of course, if the Canucks draft Mittelstadt, then we don’t need to use a 50-player roster spot on him in the off-season, as he’s going to US college, and we will have 30 days after his last college season closes to sign him. So not for a couple years, yet.

  • 51Geezer

    We all want the first-overall pick, we all want the best NHLer in the draft, but how many of us want a centre who can play in the NHL next October? I am inclined to hope for immediate help rather than the player who’s best in a few years.