If you said Tage Thompson would lead the Buffalo Sabres in points this time last season, the NHL Universe would have laughed in your face.
Tage Thompson was not the only one on the Buffalo Sabres to enjoy a season of redemption. You can also insert Rasmus Dahlin and Jeff Skinner into the same conversation. But while Skinner and Dahlin figured to be integral parts of what was then a struggling Sabres team, Thompson’s projected presence grew fringe.
Nobody in NHL spheres had much to say about Thompson. Except for the fact that they liked to criticize his lack of defensive prowess. He was nothing more than an afterthought on most season previews regarding the Sabres. Then he turned around and scored 68 points (38 goals) and solidified his spot on the first line.
Who on the Buffalo Sabres will be next season’s Tage Thompson?
One name that jumps out is none other than Casey Mittelstadt. Be as critical as you’d like, but at least hear me out. Mittelstadt, when healthy, does a lot of good things. in fact, in 41 games in 2020-21, Mittelstadt shot 16.4 percent, so he has shown he can produce when called upon.
Sure, his 7.6 percentage was a step back this season. But he also suffered an upper body injury that forced him to miss half the 2021-22 campaign.
Still, when he returned in February, Mittelstadt logged 17 points in 33 games. On an 82-game pace, this would have projected him to score 42 points, which would have been sixth on the team this season. He was also far more aggressive, recording 120 shots attempted, 26 more than 2020-21. Mittelstadt also logged 79 shots on goal.
He also outperformed Thompson in last season’s training camp, giving us another reason to believe that, when healthy, he can and will produce like the eighth overall pick the Sabres thought they were getting.
(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)