The Buffalo Sabres announced today a pair of players are out. The exact time frame wasn’t announced. However, they did say it was a couple of weeks. With Casey Mittelstadt injured in their opening win, the Buffalo Sabres are taking the good with the bad.
Per head coach Don Granato, both Casey Mittelstadt and Henri Jokiharju will be out for at least a couple of weeks.
Mittelstadt (upper body)
Jokiharju (lower body)
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 15, 2021
Sabres F Casey Mittelstadt will not return to tonight’s game due to an upper-body injury.
— Sabres PR (@SabresPR) October 15, 2021
Casey Mittelstadt Injured in Sabres Win
About halfway through the Sabre’s opening match, Mittelstadt was no longer taking shifts. His night officially ended after he skated just nine minutes, the team leading 2-1. The young Mittelstadt is expected to grow into a leadership role this season, officially his fourth with the team. The eighth-overall pick from 2017 had an excellent trial run at the end of the 2017-18 season, scoring once and picking up four assists in six games. Since then, however, the pressure of a high draft position and a team that desperately needed his scoring produced indifferent results.
After one full season in the league with 12 goals and 25 points in 77 games, he split 2019-20 between Buffalo and Rochester of the AHL. He was productive in the minors, with nine goals and 25 points in just 36 games. A year older, he joined the big club for the truncated 2020-21 season and showed he deserved to stay. His 10 goals and 22 points in 41 games were solid, but don’t tell the whole story. His overall approach has improved, shown by getting fewer sheltered minutes and more use in every situation.
With the arrival of coach Don Granato last March, Mittelstadt’s numbers increased dramatically. Granato leaned heavily on his younger players, and Mittelstadt’s response was to score eight goals and 16 points in his last 21 games of the year.
What This Means
For one thing, the Tage Thompson-is-a-centre experiment is officially accelerated. Another first-round prospect, Thompson has yet to live up to his potential. For much of his time in Buffalo, his opportunities were limited as they searched for wins over development. That changed under coach Granato, and this year saw a bigger move to the middle of the ice where he’s never really played in the NHL. With Mittelstadt injured, if Thompson can find the boost Mittelstadt got last year, he could get the top centre role. At least for the start of the year.
This is a season where the media and fans have written the team off – there were fewer than 10,000 in attendance at the opener against the Montreal Canadiens. Maybe it’s the perfect time for the young players to write their own story. It was also announced Jokiharju will miss time too. Another unfortunate loss for the Sabres this early into a long season.