NASHVILLE — Casey Mittelstadt had a tough choice to make last year — either enroll at the University of Minnesota as a 17-year-old or stay in high school and try to win the state championship that eluded him the previous season.
After much contemplation, he chose the latter. It may not have been best for his development, but he so badly wanted to win that title.
Alas, a few months later, his top-seeded Eden Prairie team got upset in the semifinals. “Not all dreams are meant to come true,” he wrote on social media.
The loss was a tough blow, but Mittelstadt doesn’t regret his decision. Perhaps only Minnesotans can understand what it means to win the state’s high school hockey tournament.
“It just becomes pretty much a holiday in Minnesota,” Mittelstadt said Monday before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. “I really can’t explain it if you’re not from there. All the kids growing up playing there get pretty attached to it. It becomes a dream. To be honest, it’s almost equal to the Stanley Cup. I don’t mean that to minimize the Stanley Cup, but growing up there it becomes pretty close to that.”
Mittelstadt will play for the Gophers next season, and being a Minnesota native, he’s pretty excited for that, too. Later this month, he’ll get drafted into the NHL, and he could go as high as No. 3 — right after Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier.
“I think of myself as a two-way center with some offensive upside,” Mittelstadt said. “My biggest strengths are my vision and creativity. I try to use that to make guys around me better. I think I can be a passer and a scorer. I like to do both.”
When Mittelstadt wasn’t chasing his dream with Eden Prairie last season, he was scoring 13 goals and 17 assists in 24 games for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL.