NASHVILLE – In between a slew of interviews with print journalists, NHL Network, NBC, Sportsnet, TSN and other media outlets Monday, Casey Mittelstadt got to meet a number of players from Stanley Cup finalists Pittsburgh and Nashville, including his childhood hero, Sidney Crosby.
The Pittsburgh captain spent a few minutes with the Eden Prairie and Green Bay Gamblers star and three other NHL draft-eligible top prospects after the Penguins’ morning skate. Mittelstadt didn’t tell Crosby that he’s been his favorite player since he was a year old.
“I tried not to be too much of fan,” said Mittelstadt, the Gophers-bound 2017 Minnesota Mr. Hockey. “I let him go do his business. They obviously have a big game tonight.”
He also got to meet many Predators players, including P.K. Subban and his brother Luke Mittelstadt’s favorite player, Roman Josi. Monday was Mittelstadt’s first Stanley Cup Final game he has attended. It was the culmination of a whirlwind week where he arrived in Nashville straight from the draft combine in Buffalo, N.Y.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “You only get to do this once, so I’m trying to soak it all in. It’s going to be a dream to get drafted, and it’s a dream to hopefully one day play in one of these.”
This was Mittelstadt’s first time in Nashville. He went for a steak dinner Sunday night, then headed to Lower Broadway to take in the scene and some country music.
He will get a brief breather in Minnesota this week before moving to the U on June 12 for summer classes and training to prep for his freshman season with the Gophers. He will spend the summer skating, working out and playing golf.
“Typical Minnesota hockey stuff,” he said, laughing.
At the combine, he hung out with fellow Minnesotan draft-eligible players like Jake Oettinger and Ryan Poehling.
“We finished an entire season of ‘Prison Break,’ ” Mittelstadt said.
He interviewed with 15 teams and took part in the combine testing. Much has been made that Mittelstadt was unable to complete a pull-up and couldn’t do more than one 150-pound bench press rep.
“I try to work on being a hockey player. I don’t try to really work on doing my bench press and pull-ups. I want to be a hockey player and that’s what I train to be,” Mittelstadt said.
Mittelstadt said he knows he’ll have to get stronger while in college, but “I don’t think that being able to do a pull-up going to make me be able to handle the puck better or be a better shooter. I don’t really buy too much into that.”
Mittelstadt, projected to be a top-five pick, will travel to Chicago for the draft June 19. He’s not trying to guess which team selects him.
“I’m pretty low-key,” he said. “I don’t try to buy into the hype too much. I don’t want to get too overconfident. The main thing is to keep doing what got me here.”
Penguins veteran Matt Cullen, hit from behind by Predators defenseman Matt Irwin twice in the series, is getting tired of it.
“It gets old,” Cullen said. “It’s a problem, I think, right now. You see a lot of that going on. It’s not just me, it’s a lot of guys. I think we need to prioritize hits like that over a slash on the hand.
“But that’s probably a different issue for a different day. That goes into the challenge of playing in the league. It’s a hard league. It’s tough, it’s physical. Especially when you play deep into the season, it adds up.”