Upon passing a physical and signing his three-year NHL contract [url=http://www.pantherscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-marquis-haynes-jersey]Authentic Marquis Haynes Jersey[/url] , Casey Mittelstadt’s first order of business as a member of the Buffalo Sabres proved to be a perk on Tuesday.
The 19-year-old was invited out for lunch with Sabres star Jack Eichel.
”It’s definitely something pretty cool for a kid like me,” Mittelstadt said. ”It’s good to know he’s excited I’m here and he’s interested in getting to know me.”
If the 21-year-old Eichel is the undisputed face of the Sabres, Mittelstadt is being counted upon to be a valuable addition in the struggling franchise’s bid to rebuild with youth. He was selected with the No. 8 pick in the draft last year, and signed with Buffalo a little more than a week after the playmaking center completed his freshman season at the University of Minnesota.
Mittelstadt is scheduled to join the Sabres for practice on Wednesday and expected to make his NHL debut the following day, when Buffalo hosts the Detroit Red Wings in a game between two teams already eliminated from playoff contention.
The Sabres have six games left, and are in jeopardy of finishing last in the overall standings for the third time in five years.
Mittelstadt was mostly unfamiliar with the Sabres’ past woes while growing up a Wild fan in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
Over the past year, he’s become more familiar with the focus being placed on the team’s youngsters to restore winning to a team that’s not made the playoffs in seven years.
”I think I can feel the struggle a little bit,” Mittelstadt said. ”And obviously, there’s a big emphasis being put on the young guys to turn it around here.”
Mittelstadt had 11 goals and 19 assists in 34 games and was selected to the Big Ten all-freshmen team this year.
The Golden Gophers’ season ended last week, when they were on the wrong end of numerous scenarios in being eliminated from competing in the NCAA Tournament.
Mittelstadt took a few days to weigh his options before electing to turn pro last weekend. He said Minnesota coach Don Lucia’s decision to step down after 19 seasons had little influence on his decision.
”I wanted to make sure the decision I came to that I’m both feet in,” he said. ”And it came up over and over again that both my feet were into go pro.”
Buffalo has become a familiar setting for Mittelstadt. He attended the NHL pre-draft rookie combine in the city last spring.
He made yet a bigger splash in representing the bronze-medal-winning United States team at the World Junior hockey championship, which was held in Buffalo three months ago. Mittelstadt was selected as the 10-nation tournament’s MVP after finishing tied for first in scoring with 11 points (four goals [url=http://www.authenticsjacksonvillejaguars.com/cheap-dj-chark-jersey]DJ Chark Jersey Elite[/url] , seven assists).
The inkling of one day playing for the Sabres in the same arena briefly crossed Mittelstadt’s mind during the world juniors, though he was more focused on representing the U.S. and returning to Minnesota.
”Obviously, things didn’t turn out the way we wanted them to this year,” Mittelstadt said of the Gophers’ season ending.
”But when the time came and I had some time to sit down and think and talk with my family, I think this was the right decision.”
By adding Mittelstadt, the Sabres demoted forward Justin Bailey to Rochester.
More NHL hockey: For now anyway, Jamar Taylor seems the odds-on favorite to win the cornerback job opposite Patrick Peterson, a chore that's loaded with action since that's the direction most opponents decide to throw.
Last week, the Arizona Cardinals sent a 2020 sixth-round draft pick to Cleveland in exchange for Taylor, who started 29 games for the Browns the past two seasons.
"It means another opportunity," Taylor said after he practiced Wednesday, the second day of the Cardinals' voluntary workouts this week. "Obviously, they (the Browns) didn't have me in their plans up there. It is what it is. I felt like I did what I needed to do up there as far as help change the culture. I was very loyal to the Browns [url=http://www.jaguarsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-taven-bryan-jersey]Jaguars Taven Bryan Jersey[/url] , but letting me go, it definitely puts another fire in my gut to come out here and ball out."
First-year coach Steve Wilks said Taylor might be the leading candidate but he has to earn the job.
"I think when you look at what he's done on paper, I think you can say that," Wilks said, "but once we get out on the field, it's a clean slate for everybody."
Taylor said he understands that.
"I've always got 100 percent confidence in myself," he said. "But at the same time, you've got to put the work in. You can't just come in here and be like oh, you're going to be the guy. There's a ton of guys in here that are really good. I've been watching the last couple of days. I just have to come in here and make sure I'm doing my job so I get that opportunity."
The Cardinals think highly enough of Taylor that they released another veteran cornerback, Marcus Williams, on Monday.
Wilks is known for his work with cornerbacks. He was cornerbacks coach of the Carolina Panthers before being promoted to defensive coordinator there last season.
"I'm excited," Taylor said. "I've watched his defenses a lot. I'm a big film guy. Just seeing him when he was with Carolina, knowing him when he was with San Diego. I had some old friends that played for him. I've heard what type of coach he is and then seeing out there the past couple of days [url=http://www.authenticsnewenglandpatriots.com/cheap-troy-niklas-jersey]Troy Niklas Jersey Elite[/url] , it's amazing. This whole organization is a great organization."
Asked what he thinks of Taylor, Wilks said, "When you look at him over the time, particularly a couple of years ago when he had his best season on the other side of (Joe) Haden, to make plays on the ball, extremely smart. He's physical and I love the way he tackles. We take a lot of pride in that, of course I do, in making sure our cornerbacks tackle."
Taylor's three career interceptions came in that 2016 season opposite the longtime standout Haden and he said he welcomes the challenge of playing opposite Peterson.
"It's just more plays for whoever's over there," Taylor said. "More plays, that's how you've got to look at it. More opportunities for you to get picks. When I went to Cleveland, I played opposite Joe Haden. That meant more plays that year. I made a lot of plays on the ball. Playing opposite from a guy like Pat, it's a huge deal, you've got to hold your own."
The Browns went 1-31 in Taylor's two seasons there [url=http://www.broncosauthorizedshops.com/authentic-josey-jewell-jersey]Broncos Josey Jewell Jersey[/url] , but the losing didn't wear him down, he said.
"I've always felt like I was a winner," he said. "I rarely lost in high school, didn't really lose in college. My mindset was just worry about what I can do on the field. If that meant staying late and making sure I had my job right, that's what it meant. I just always tried to keep the other guys together, because in the NFL you could win or lose by three points, two points, one point. Every Sunday is different."
Taylor, and especially his wife Mackenzie, are happy to be moving out West. She grew up in suburban Phoenix. He was a second-round draft choice by the Dolphins out of Boise State in 2013.
"She's more of a topic than I am," he said. "We're both excited. I've been waiting to play on the West Coast my whole career. I went to Miami and all the way north to Cleveland. So I'm happy to be kind of close to home. I know she's happy to be around her family. We're going to definitely have way more support at games now."
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