Matthew Nieto – F – San Jose
With the recent injury to Tomas Hertl, this move was not a shocker. Nieto has already suited up with the big club this year, registering two goals and four assists. Since being sent down, the 21-year-old had five points in two games, and with the news that Hertl may miss at least a month (some reports have speculated he’ll miss the rest of the season), I wouldn't expect to see Nieto back in the AHL anytime soon. Since his stay with the Sharks is most likely going to be a long one, he gains some value for that reason alone. Most likely, we'll see Martin Havlat slide up to the second line while Nieto fills in at left wing on the third line, seeing somewhere between 10-13 minutes per night. For a team that has great depth up front, it is unlikely we will see Nieto with any power-play minutes, but his ability to produce offensively both in juniors and college suggests that he will definitely be a serviceable player in San Jose for as long as they need him. He is known for his energy, quick skating, and good puck skills.
SHORT-TERM FANTASY OUTLOOK: Like most third-line players, Nieto is mostly relevant in deeper leagues, but on a team that shares the puck as well as San Jose, and with the recent play of players like Tommy Wingels, Nieto may be one to keep an eye on in the short term to see how his first few games back up in the show turn out.
LONG-TERM FANTASY OUTLOOK: Some serious consideration down the road for Nieto if he can mature to be the offensive talent he was in college. Still only 21 years old, he will be given the right time to develop his game and his skills. There is a chance one day he can step into a role on the Sharks like one former college player did before him, Joe Pavelski.
Jack Skille – F – Columbus
The former seventh overall selection of the Chicago Blackhawks back in 2005 has never really lived up to the hype in the NHL. However, down in the AHL, Skille has proven to be a near point-per-game player the last four seasons. Signed by Columbus in the offseason, Skille has not been able to impress enough to earn a permanent stay. However, with the recent injury to Marian Gaborik, and then Marian Gaborik again, Skille has an opportunity to show what made him a first-round pick eight years ago. Historically, when we'd think of Columbus we wouldn't assume many talented players were playing there, but GM Jarmo Kekäläinen has assembled a decent forward crop. With the way Ryan Johansen, RJ Umberger, and Nick Foligno are playing, it is unlikely that Skille will receive top-six minutes, but with Marian Gaborik sidelined for a while, this could be a good opportunity for the forward to impress.
SHORT-TERM FANTASY OUTLOOK: For now, I can't say that Jack Skille comes with much fantasy value because his sample size in the NHL is just too small. However, you cannot discount his ability to put up numbers in the AHL consistently for the past few years. In addition, the fact he was a former first-round pick indicates he has talent, it's just a matter of if, and when, he can figure it out.
LONG-TERM FANTASY OUTLOOK: Being that Skille was signed as a free agent in the offseason by Columbus, his future is undetermined at this time for a long-term standpoint. There is an outside chance someone, somewhere has Skille on a keeper league roster, but other than that, it would take some production from Skille to garner attention in fantasy.
Kevin Porter – F – Buffalo
Porter was one of my favorite college hockey players back in 2008, captaining the Michigan Wolverines and scoring 63 points en route to winning the Hobey Baker Award in his senior season. After he was drafted by Phoenix and then traded to Colorado, I paid attention to see how Porter was doing in the NHL. In the games I watched, I saw some of the same characteristics that had made him so good in college. Twenty-five points in 2010-11 as a member of the Colorado Avalanche was the last real production Porter had in the NHL before being signed by the Buffalo Sabres in 2012. During the lockout season, Porter was the captain of the Sabres’ affiliate down in Rochester, where he managed 44 points in 48 games. He skated in 31 games with the big boys last year, registering 9 points. With 10 points in 13 games this season, and with Buffalo's offensive struggles creating an opening, Porter received a call back and has provided nice depth down the middle, currently centering their fourth line. It is unlikely that we will see Porter produce much offense on a Sabres team whose first-line players are bone-dry as well. Even with the injury to Cody Hodgson, I still don't see Porter moving up in the lineup and for that he comes with limited fantasy value.
SHORT-TERM FANTASY VALUE: As I said, it is hard to get excited over anyone on Buffalo right now, let alone a player who is averaging 8-10 minutes of ice time per night. I do not expect Porter to provide anything but great memories of a truly outstanding college hockey player from an outstanding college hockey program. Which reminds me. What ever happened to T.J. Hensick?
LONG-TERM FANTASY VALUE: For a guy who is 27 years old, I think at this point, Porter is just trying to live out the dream. In essence, do whatever is asked of him to maintain his stay in Buffalo. Still one of my all-time favorite college players, I have no reason to believe that Porter holds any fantasy value at this time.
Linus Omark – F – Buffalo
This is part-trade, part-recall, as Omark was sent from the Oilers to the Sabres, and immediately, interim coach Ted Nolan said the forward would be given every opportunity to come in and contribute. For a team that scores no goals, you can't blame the coach for making such a proclamation. Since coming over to North America, Omark has shown flashes of brilliance but has not been able to shake the "soft European" tag. In the AHL, he’s been dynamite, scoring 76 points in 74 games down below, 34 of them being goals. Such a talent surely has to figure it out at the NHL level, right? Suddenly, you hear a bunch of Oilers' fans yell back "no." The Sabres are the kind of team who can take a chance on Omark. On a rebuilding team with an awful record, a new head coach, and a lack of goal-scoring, Omark has an outside chance to move up in the lineup if he can do what he did in the minors. Now that is much easier said than done, so it is safe to assume he will land in Nolan’s doghouse at some point just as he did in Edmonton, leaving us to simply marvel over his YouTube highlights for more years to come.
SHORT-TERM FANTASY VALUE: Anytime you talk about a talented European, it always seems to go one of two ways. Either he is really good and the move looks nothing short of genius, or he just becomes another player on a Sabres team that can't score. It is anyone's guess how this one is going to turn out, but with talent like Omark, who knows? He may be able to chip in with something (if he can get himself off that 4th line).
LONG-TERM FANTASY VALUE: If you remember the first time you saw Omark’s YouTube clips and heard that the Oilers had signed him, you'd then remember your reaction: "This guy is going to be sick." We're still waiting.
Tomas Jurco – F – Detroit
Talk about talented European players, Jurco is the epitome of talent. An all-world talent playing in Saint John's as a junior, this kid was a human highlight reel. He was able to do things with the puck we hadn't seen since the days of Rob Schremp. Jurco was drafted in the second round by (who else?) the Red Wings, due to what I can only assume to be "birthplace related." If Jurco was born in London, Ontario and he had the same talent, it may have been a different story. Take nothing away from the Red Wings and their scouting staff (we all know what kind of drafting history they have), they stuck with it and drafted a very talented forward. This year, at the tender age of 20, Jurco has figured out the North American pro game, and the proof is in his 27 points in 26 games down in Grand Rapids. Injuries to Stephen Weiss, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen (I could keep going), Jurco will be given an opportunity by Mike Babcock to play in the top-six, in addition to taking some of those power-play minutes that are on the IR. For a kid this talented with players around him like Pavel Datsyuk, he has every opportunity to be a contributor, a la Tomas Tatar.
SHORT-TERM FANTASY VALUE: As I said, top-six minutes on a team like Detroit that plays the way they do with players like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg (when healthy), this could be a decent grab in all standard formats.
LONG-TERM FANTASY VALUE: The good and the bad with the Red Wings drafting so well is that Jurco, like most of Detroit’s prospects, must hone their skills in the AHL before a full-time promotion. That's the bad news. The good news is, once promoted, prospects get to play alongside some of the best players in the game, and for one of the best coaches in the game. The reward is worth the wait. I assume we will be hearing Jurco's name in the future. As long as he stays in North America.
Cody Ceci – D – Ottawa
Ceci was born in Ontario, played his junior hockey in Ottawa for the 67's, then was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the first round in 2012, and now has a chance to make his NHL debut. The struggling Senators are looking for Ceci to bring his elite hockey sense and offensive ability to a team that relies way too much on Erik Karlsson out of the back. His puck handling and offensive instincts are outstanding for a defenseman, and if he plays well enough, the Senators might be inclined to keep him around. Seventeen points so far in 24 games is a great start to your first season in the pros, especially at the age of 20. Ottawa is deep with talent up front that is just underachieving at the moment, so Ceci does have some targets to move the puck to offensively. Capable of playing on the power play, he may be able to take minutes away from any other defenseman not named Karlsson. Definitely one to watch in the next week or two.
SHORT-TERM FANTASY VALUE: If he can snag some power-play time, then he would make an intriguing short-term add. If not, he would still be one to keep an eye on. Even with the Senators' struggles recently, Ceci is still capable of creating offense if given the right opportunity.
LONG-TERM FANTASY VALUE: As with any first round pick, there is huge long-term fantasy potential, as I'm sure all of Ceci's keeper league owners will tell you. He is 20 years old and currently playing in the NHL after contributing very solid offensive numbers in the AHL. This is a great sign that Ceci will give the Senators the hockey sense, offense, and puck skills they love to have out of their defensemen for years to come.
Kevin Pedersen is a scout for the WHL's Everett Silvertips. Follow him on Twitter @the_kped for more of his hockey musings.