Minnesota's top hockey prospect Middlestadt fails to record single pull-up during strength testing
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Sidney Crosby walked over to Casey Mittelstadt in a cramped hallway below Bridgestone Arena on Monday and extended his hand.Mittelstadt, poised to be a top-10 pick in the NHL draft later this month, could barely contain a smile...
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Sidney Crosby walked over to Casey Mittelstadt in a cramped hallway below Bridgestone Arena on Monday and extended his hand.
Mittelstadt, poised to be a top-10 pick in the NHL draft later this month, could barely contain a smile while exchanging pleasantries with the best hockey player on the planet. He didn’t want Crosby to know that the Penguins superstar has long been his favorite player or that he watches dozens of Penguins games each year because of him.
“I tried not to be too much of a fan,” Mittelstadt, of Eden Prairie, said with a laugh.
An introduction to a two-time Stanley Cup winner is one of the perks for Mittelstadt, one of four top prospects being treated by the NHL to a behind-the-scenes look at the Stanley Cup Final. With less than three weeks before he’ll hear his name called at the draft, Mittelstadt is trying to soak in the benefits of life as a top prospect, even if it has been exhausting.
Last week, he was at the league’s scouting combine in Buffalo. After watching Game 4 here, Mittelstadt will return to Minnesota for his high school graduation. A week later, he’ll move into Dinkytown and begin his long-awaited hockey career with the Gophers. A week later, on June 23, he’ll be in Chicago for the NHL Draft.
“I think when it’s all over, 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. So, to get through that will be a little bit of a relief. But there’s a lot of excitement, too, so I’m looking forward to it.”
If Mittelstadt is picked with one of the first 11 picks in the draft, as expected, he’ll become the highest Minnesota draft pick since Bloomington’s Erik Johnson was selected No. 1 overall in 2006.
But in the weeks before, Mittelstadt has been tasked with answering questions about his strength after a disappointing showing at the combine. During testing, he failed to do a pull-up and recorded one repetition on the bench press.
“I try to work on being a hockey player; I don’t try to work on my bench press or pull-ups,” Mittelstadt said. “I want to be a hockey player and that’s what I train to do.
“… I think it’s good to be strong, and I think there are things I can get stronger at and work on, but I don’t think being able to do a pull-up is going to make me be able to handle the puck better or be a better shooter.”
Mittelstadt first drew national attention when he spurned major junior programs to return to Eden Prairie for his senior year, a rare move for a prospect has highly regarded as Mittelstadt. After Eden Prairie’s season ended at the state tournament, Mittelstadt played for the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League and recorded 30 points in 23 games, cementing his status as a top prospect.
With Eden Prairie last season, he notched 64 points in 25 games, earning Mr. Hockey honors.
In interviews with 15 NHL teams at the combine, he said, the most-asked question was about his decision to play high school hockey, which yielded an answer on the importance of playing with his childhood friends and his love of the state tournament.
“It becomes pretty much a holiday in Minnesota,” he said of the tourney. “It almost becomes equal to the Stanley Cup - and I don’t mean that to minimize the Stanley Cup. But growing up there, it becomes pretty close to that.”
Mittelstadt said he’s looking forward to beginning his Gophers career and predicts they’ll have “a good team next year.” But first comes the draft.
“Getting drafted is just the start,” Mittelstadt said, “but it’s fun to soak it in and see how far you’ve come.”