PLYMOUTH, Mich. – Last year during the World Junior Summer Showcase, Casey Mittelstadt was an early cut.
The event which features the U.S., Canada, Sweden and Finland is an opportunity for coaches and staff to evaluate talent in advance of December's IIHF Men's World Junior Championship.
This year's event is in Buffalo. And this year, Buffalo's top draft choice in June is likely to play a key role for Team USA.
Mittelstadt, who will attend Minnesota this fall, was drafted by the Sabres eighth overall in Chicago this past June.
The forward has been one of the top scorers for the United States, notching three goals and five assists in four games at the USA Hockey arena in Plymouth, Mich. That includes back-to-back multi-point games. On Wednesday night, he registered two assists as the U.S. came back from a 1-0 deficit for a 3-2 win over Sweden.
The night before he had two goals and two assists in a split-squad game as USA White defeated Canada Red, 8-2, on Tuesday.
"He's been outstanding in camp," U.S. coach Bob Motzko said on Thursday as the American team had the day off. "He's a year older, a year wiser. He really stepped forward as a go-to guy. Ben Smith on our staff likes to say, 'Raise your hand. Tell us you're here.' And every day he's raised his hand and is standing tall.
"He has outstanding skill and play-making. Can change a game at any moment and is showing leadership, too. I don't know if we put him in a lot of those situations a year ago because of the older group that was here. Well they're gone and it's his turn and he's sure stepping forward right now and showing that he's got the ability to be a very special player."
There are no games on Thursday and Team USA is off.
They will play Finland at 4 p.m. on Friday and meet Canada in the showcase finale at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
USA White leads Canada Red, 5-0, after one period. #WJSS
Casey Mittelstadt netted USA White’s second goal 3:35 into play. pic.twitter.com/K5jt8amJsQ
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) August 1, 2017