Mittelstadt, Bellows lead the way at WJC

Rather than focus exclusively on the Minnesota Wild’s top prospects, we’re taking a look at the best players from across the State of Hockey every week.

From high school to the pros, check out our recap of all the week’s events in Minnesota hockey, as we check in with college players, prep standouts and State of Hockey alums.

Let’s take a look at this week’s three-star selection, along with other notes, in the latest edition of the State of Hockey Tracker.

More Wild coverage

FIRST STAR

Casey Mittelstadt, F, Minnesota Gophers (Big Ten)

The U.S. kicked its title defense at the World Junior Championships off with a bang Tuesday in Buffalo, scoring five goals in the first period and coasting to a 9-0 win over Denmark. The squad’s Minnesota contingent had a big hand in the rout. Mittelstadt, who played for Eden Prairie in high school, went to the net after throwing a long backhand on goal in the first, scoring on his own rebound to give the U.S. a 3-0 lead. He showed off his otherworldly hands a few minutes later, deftly one-timing a shallow angle shot past the Denmark goalie to make it 5-0.

SECOND STAR

Kieffer Bellows, F, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Bellows, a native of Edina, scored two goals of his own in the win. He collected the puck in the right circle and rifled a wrist shot past the Denmark goalie to make it 2-0. Bellows was back at it in the second period, when he converted on a penalty shot, going five-hole to give the Americans a 6-0 lead.

THIRD STAR

Sam Anas, F, Iowa Wild (AHL)

It sure looks like Anas has turned the corner after struggling in his first year with the organization. He stretched his point streak to nine games last week, scoring twice and adding an assist in a pair of Wild losses. Anas now leads the Wild in scoring with 23 points, and has 13 points since his current streak began. Meanwhile, his six-game goal streak is the best active mark in the AHL.

AROUND THE RINK

— After leading the U.S. to gold last year, St. Cloud State head coach Bob Motzko remains undefeated in WJC play.

— Forward Ivan Lodnia has seven points in four games for Erie since Dec. 10, the day before he signed with the Wild.

— Former Gophers forward Justin Kloos continued his productive season in the AHL with a two-point game last week, posting a goal and an assist to tie veteran Pat Cannone for second on the Iowa Wild in scoring.