BUFFALO – Don Granato first sensed it during the Sabres’ marathon offseason in 2020. Having been humbled by his demotion to the minors, Casey Mittelstadt grasped he had reached a critical juncture of his career.
When Granato, then an assistant coach, spoke to Mittelstadt, he could feel the center was evolving and maturing.
“He was putting all these pieces (together) of what people had presented to him,” Granato said following Wednesday’s practice.
Granato said Mittelstadt collected information from anyone he could – his agent and current and past coaches – and put it together “within the identity of his skill set.”
“Just a whole maturation process,” he said. “I mentioned many times he’s a competitor, so all of that is the formula for what we see now out of him.”
Right now, Mittelstadt, 22, is the Sabres’ No. 1 center. The American will likely pivot Vinnie Hinostroza and Jeff Skinner in Thursday’s season opener against the Montreal Canadiens at KeyBank Center.
These days, on the ice or even talking to the media, Mittelstadt exudes confidence. He recently signed a three-year, $7.5 million contract. With Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen all gone, he has become one of the most recognizable faces on the rebuilding Sabres.
“If you would have told me two years ago that he would be at the level of maturation that he is now on the ice and off the ice, I might have said that…