Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – When it comes to trades this summer, I think the Buffalo Sabres need to resist the available centers.
Buffalo already has four young centers in Tage Thompson, Peyton Krebs, Dylan Cozens and Casey Mittelstadt. Last season, one of them was usually on the wing, and I don’t see that changing next year.
Of the four, Mittelstadt seems to handle the wing the best. He says he’d be fine with making the change going forward.
“I don’t think any of us really care if we play wing or center, but maybe some of us would rather play center. Either way, especially in our system, playing wing, you end up low in the D-zone," said Mittelstadt during his end-of-season press conference. "We can all take draws, and that’s a big thing too. Especially if one of us is playing with 'Cuz', we have a righty and a lefty for faceoffs. Personally, it doesn’t really matter to me. I enjoy playing both, and they both have their benefits.”
Both Cozens and Krebs would rather play center, but Cozens was, at times, Canada's best player at the 2022 World Championship. He played the whole tournament at left wing and even led the event with seven goals.
Mittelstadt is already a four-year veteran for the Sabres, playing in 195 NHL games.
Two years ago, he was really playing well, but injuries took most of his progress away from him last season. Through it all, he knows he’s not a kid anymore.
“I am 23, but I would like to say that I feel my age," Mittelstadt said. "We’re all young, and we’re all growing up together. I think that’s part of what makes it special. It’s funny, I watch 'Cuzy' do a lot of the same things that I did two years ago, literally exactly. So we’re all going to go through it together.”
Next season will be a big year for Mittelstadt. He has to show that he can get back to what he was right after Don Granato took over at head coach for Ralph Krueger. He says the injuries just took his game away from him last year.
“It’s a thought, at times, but I had a lot of conversations about this. It’s adversity that you’re going to go through, and I’ve never had the long-term injury thing," Mittelstadt said. "There were a lot of things for me to learn, and a lot of things that I would try to do differently trying to comeback.”
General manager Kevyn Adams is doing a deep dive into the Sabres' injuries woes from the last two years. Mittelstadt doesn’t know if he can do anything differently to prevent injuries.
“That’s part of the question that I’ve been going through in my mind, and I still have some decisions to make on that," he said. "But the conclusion is it is just some bad luck. I’ve never had long-term injuries like that, and I’ve been doing the same kind of thing for my whole life. So I don’t think I would change that, but maybe some things in diet or different exercises that I can definitely do better. I’m going to analyze everything, because it was tough and I don’t want it to happen again.”
Mittelstadt came out the other side from the injuries, and should be able to put the work in during the summer.
“There are things I can work on. I want to get quicker, I want to work on my skating a bit, and I think I have the right things in place to do that," Mittelstadt said. "But it’s always going to be getting stronger and getting faster. That’s the two biggest things for me.”
After Krueger was dismissed, Mittelstadt had nine goals and nine assists for 18 points in 28 games. Before that, he had one goal and three assists for four points in 12 games. He spent a lot of time on the taxi squad with Krueger.