Casey Mittelstadt is due to arrive in Chicago with his mom and two brothers Wednesday. Father Tom will pick them up at the airport for the beginning of the end of the much-hyped Eden Prairie star and future Gopher’s journey toward being drafted in the NHL.
After Mittelstadt returned for his senior season with the Eagles to chase a state championship dream that just came up short, his accomplishments included becoming the third Eden Prairie player in nine years to be named Minnesota Mr. Hockey and being ranked third among North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service.
His name should be called Friday night in the first round at United Center.
“It’ll be a bit of a relief,” Mittelstadt said. “It’s been a stressful year, not only for me, but for my whole family. But there’s a lot of excitement, too, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Tom Mittelstadt was a football and baseball player growing up. He played at St. Olaf. His kids call him, “D-3” … as in Division III. From the moment Tom put his oldest son on skates at age 3, Casey was a rink rat. There’s nothing he likes doing more during the winter than skating with his buddies and brothers, John, 15, and Luke, 14, on their backyard rink.
“I don’t remember any times I didn’t love it,” Casey said.
After scoring 106 points his first two years of high school, Mittelstadt began last fall with Green Bay of the USHL before leaving after 16 games to rejoin Eden Prairie. He dominated, scoring 22 goals and garnering 59 points in only 25 games. Unfortunately, he played through an injury throughout the state tournament that left him less than 100 percent.
“I don’t know if ‘regret’ is the right word, but you do imagine what you could have done to help the team if I wasn’t hurt,” he said. “But you can’t look back. I had a blast and now I’m ready to move on.”
In fact, after meeting with 15 teams at the recent combine, Mittelstadt can’t wait to finally learn where he’s chosen and by whom.
“I know it will be a big relief for me,” Tom said, laughing. “He could be three [overall], it could be 15, it could be 30, who knows? It’s been a crazy year. It was a lot of him in the spotlight. I don’t necessarily say that he always likes that. That’s not why he’s playing, and it was nonstop, really. But hockey-wise was great, and now, he’s been working out at the U and having a blast, and I think he’s ready just to be a college student for a little while.”
Mittelstadt is considered one of the purest scorers in the draft. If taken in the top 11, he’ll be the highest-drafted Minnesotan since Ryan McDonagh, another Mr. Hockey winner, went 12th overall to the New York Rangers in 2007.
Off the ice, Mittelstadt is laid-back and quiet.
On the ice, “I’m pretty much the exact opposite. I’m super competitive. I don’t even know if it’s like a flip of a switch or what. But it’s kind of like a new person. I think that’ll do me well in college and in the pros. I can be a little mean.”
Tom Mittelstadt doesn’t know where that comes from.
“I’ll beat him five straight games of pingpong, he’ll beat me the sixth, and then we’re done,” the proud father says, laughing. “He likes to compete. When he does, that’s what comes out.”