World Juniors Notebook: Mittelstadt makes an impression - The Buffalo News

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World Juniors Notebook: Mittelstadt makes an impression

There are things Casey Mittelstadt would like back.

Like that three-on-zero break against Sweden in the semifinal, where he didn't bury his scoring chance, a goal that would tied the game and perhaps changed the course of the tournament for Team USA.

But overall, Mittelstadt is happy with his game, content with the bronze medal, and leaves his mark on the World Junior Championship as one of the tournament's top scorers with 11 points.

"I played very well for the most part. Obviously, I like to play with the puck on my stick and get into the play with good teammates who feed me the puck a lot," Mittelstadt said. "For the most part, it was a good tournament. There was some things I wish I could have back but overall, I thought it was pretty good."

Mittelstadt certainly made an impression in Buffalo with his puck handling ability. He had seven assists, including one in Friday's 9-3 win over the Czech Republic in the bronze medal game. And while he was wowing the fans and the media, he was also winning over his USA teammates.

"Obviously you guys all see the plays he makes," said U.S. captain Joey Anderson. "He's a good teammate. He's a guy we want around. He's got a motor that doesn't stop. He's a kid that he wants the puck. We go out (Thursday) night, even though we're down, he wants the puck now. He's a go-getter. That's something."

It's something that Buffalo Sabres fans are hoping to see regularly at KeyBank Center. Mittelstadt was the first-round pick of the Sabres in 2017 and while he's a freshman at Minnesota this year, many are eager to see him regularly suit up in KeyBank Center in an NHL jersey.

For two weeks Mittelstadt has downplayed the question of being a Buffalo draft pick playing in Buffalo. And that continued on Friday.

"Obviously being drafted here and being here, I think it probably crossed my mind," Mittelstadt said.  "But I mean the World Juniors is a big enough stage itself to start with. Obviously I realize I'm in Buffalo but at the same time, I'm trying to win a gold medal and be with my teammates. So I didn't look too far ahead. I tried to stay in the moment and not take too much for granted."

The experience hasn't completely sunk in yet for the 18-year-old. He's sure he's learned a ton and has developed as a hockey player from his time with Team USA. He just can't put a finger on it just yet.

"Just playing for different coaches and having different guys behind the bench brings a new perspective," Mittelstadt said. "I think that's what I realize once I kind of get away. I don't think there's one particular thing, but I'm sure I'll notice it in a few weeks."

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The Czech Republic finished fourth. Which on paper is great. It's their highest finish since they won the bronze in 2005.

But they return home without a medal.

And however you slice it, it stings.

"It made me feel a little bit better, but we lost and we ended fourth," said Filip Zadina, a draft-eligible forward. "We could be third or second, but we lost. I don’t feel good right now because we lost that game."

Overall it was good tournament for Zadina, who had seven goals and eight points. The performance may have helped him for this summer's NHL draft. But that's little consolation.

"I think I played good in the tournament but I don’t want to think about myself right now. We lost and… I don’t know, I will probably think about myself tomorrow or next day because I’m going to Halifax and I’m going to play in Halifax and help my team again," said Zadina, who is playing for the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL.

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Marcus Davidsson hasn't thrown up big offensive numbers for Sweden. Through the first six games he had one goal and two assists, playing mostly on Sweden's fourth line. While has speed and talent with the puck, his role this tournament has been a more defensive one. And it's something that Davidsson has embraced.

"Of course, this gives me a lot of experience to face very good players out there," Davidsson said. "I think I've played a game here where I skate a lot and try to be in opponents face, try to make them tired and create some opportunities. I think that's a role that's important for our team because we have a lot of skilled players and maybe they are more into that category and I have another role on this team. I think it's good to try new things."

It's his second trip to Buffalo after spending a week downtown over the summer as part of the Sabres prospects camp.

"I was here for a week in the summer and I like the town," Davidsson of Buffalo. "There's a lot of good malls. But you know, I like it so far. The fans are amazing. The arena is very nice and people are nice, so it's good."

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It's all in the family for Alexander Nylander. The Sabres prospect had seven points heading into Friday's gold medal game. That ties him with his father, Michael, in career scoring at the World Juniors. Alexander has 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 20 World Juniors games. Michael, who played 15 NHL seasons, had 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists) in 14 career World Junior games.

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