For Sabre fans, the great thing about the World Junior Championship is it offers a temporary respite from their team’s dismal season. Watching Sabre prospects like Casey Mittelstadt, Alex Nylander and Marcus Davidsson offers hope for the future.
Halfway through the preliminary round of four games, here’s how all five Sabre prospects are performing:
Casey Mittelstadt / Team USA
(Sabres 2017 First-round pick)
Mittelstadt has three goals in his first two games–the only player in the tourney with that many. Though Team USA lost 3-2 Thursday night, the talk of the game was his sick mitts highlight-reel goal.
Casey Mittelstadt NSFW https://t.co/BDjDxwzgtX
— Marina Maher (@marinakmaher) December 29, 2017
Mittelstadt is probably best remembered for his inability to do a pull-up at the scouting combine held in Buffalo. It left some to wonder if he had the body strength or commitment to play professional hockey. Who cares how many he can do, especially if he’s scoring goals like that one.
The 6-foot, 201-pound electric forward is a complete package of speed, skill and hockey sense. He competes hard every shift and has incredible hands to go with his creativity–a hallmark of his game.
Since arriving at the University of Minnesota, he has been prepping himself for the World Junior Championship. He has pushed himself to become a more well-rounded 200-foot player and is building strength as well. His knack for finding open space and putting his teammates in positions to excel is easily seen.
“College has taught me a lot and I have grown quite a bit,” Mittelstadt said. “I have worked with the coaching staff and am going to keep working on things like faceoffs and improving defensively. There is a lot of time for me to get in the weight room too, which is important.”
Team USA roasted Denmark, 9-0 to open their tournament, so they have three points and sit in second place in Group A by virtue of their 11:3 goal differential.
Alex Nylander / Team Sweden
(Sabres 2016 First-round pick)
Alex Nylander is in a four-way tie on the tournament’s scoring leaderboard. In two games, he has a goal and three assists. The goal was a pure snipe as he ripped one, glove side, top-corner.
Another look at Nylander’s goal pic.twitter.com/rGMwjtdDwK
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 28, 2017
Marcus Davidsson / Team Sweden
(Sabres 2017 Second-round pick)
Marcus Davidsson of Sweden has one goal on two shots and is tied for third at the faceoff dot, going 12-for-17 (70.59%).
Nylander and Davidsson are looking strong for Team Sweden. They’ve won both of their games so far. Sweden spanked Belarus, 6-1, then in a closer battle, fought off the Czech Republic, 3-1. They sit atop Group B.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen / Team Finland
(Sabres 2017 Second-round pick)
Luukkonen has played in both of Finland’s games. They lost their opener to Canada, 4-2, then defeated Denmark, 4-1. They sit in third place in Group A.
The man with six k’s in his name has a 2.54 goals-against average and has made 34 saves on 39 shots.
Vojtech Budik / Team Czech Republic
(Sabres 2017 Fifth-round pick)
Budik has no points and no shots on goal through his team’s two games. The Czechs sit in third place in Group B with three points.
The highly touted outdoor game between Team USA and Team Canada is set for Friday at 3 p.m. EST at New Era Field. Bitter cold temperatures are expected, with single-digit windchills and a chance of flurries. Tickets are still available.
Jeff has been covering the NHL for over a decade for various sites. He’s been with The Hockey Writers as a lead Sabres writer three years, while also writing a satire column called “Off the Crossbar.”