TORONTO – News of Casey Mittelstadt agreeing to terms on his entry-level contract spread just as the Buffalo Sabres were wrapping up their morning skate in Air Canada Centre for Monday night's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Some players in the dressing room actually heard about it for the first time from reporters giving them the word. The response was unanimous: The 19-year-old will be a quick infusion of speed that will give this team an added boost while playing out the string over the final 10 days of the season.
"He's got some quick mitts for sure," said defenseman Brendan Guhle, who skated with Mittelstadt in development camp last summer at HarborCenter. "He's a good player, so quick, has a good shot. It's great we were able to get him signed."
Winger Kyle Okposo skated with Mittelstadt last summer in Minnesota, playing in both a 4-on-4 league filled with NHL players and thrice-weekly 5-on-5 skates.
"He was really impressive there," Okposo said. "There were guys on the bench saying how special of a player he was and how special his mind was for the game. That's what really impressed me. He was able to take over the game. I know it's summer but he's a good player. All of us were really impressed with his hands, the way he moves and his smarts."
Mittelstadt also made quite an impression on his future teammates with the way he dominated the World Junior Championship in Buffalo.
"Seeing him there, he was one of the best players in the tournament," said Jack Eichel. "High skill level, somebody that we can definitely use."
"He was a dominant player and I'm excited to get to play with him," added Ryan O'Reilly. "It's good. He brings a lot to the table. It gives us a good look and it's only going to make our team better because he's a great player."
O'Reilly said Mittelstadt utilizes "little plays, little shiftiness" on the ice far beyond his years.
"I'm sure there's a lot of things we're going to teach him, too, but I think he can make an impact right away," O'Reilly said. "Seeing what he's doing in the World Juniors and how he impacted the game, to have him come to us and help out will be awesome."
Housley spent his first summer development camp in the Sabres' front-office suite at HarborCenter. And his eyes were often trained to where Mittelstadt was on the ice.
"He'll see another level of speed for sure here but he plays the game at a high speed level with great hockey sense and a great IQ for the game," Housley said. "I think that will be a good adjustment for him to get up to speed. You're playing in a man's league. You're playing against stronger and bigger players. Those are things he's going to have to make adjustments to. But by using his speed, he'll be able to create separation and get away from checks."
It's been a big couple of days for Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill, getting Mittelstadt and St. Cloud State defenseman Will Borgen to leave school and sign with the team on back-to-back days.
"It's part of the future," Eichel said. "Good players. I'm happy they're a part of the organization. Any time you sign good players like that, you want them to make the team better."