Finding Fantasy Value: Mittelstadt brings short-, long-term gains

Casey Mittelstadt has signed his entry-level contract with Buffalo. (Nathan Denette/CP)

If you’ve made it this far reaching your fantasy league semifinal or final, congratulations. If not, then it shouldn’t be too early to think about next season. This week we hope to help you find the best of both worlds, both with players that can help in what’s left of the season and players that you can secure now for long-term gain.

As always, whether you add any of these players should depend on your league settings (points only vs. multi-category), other available players, and team needs.

Casey Mittelstadt, C

The Sabres’ top prospect, who was selected eighth overall in the most recent draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level contract to join the Sabres this week. He may need a little time to get his feet wet in the NHL, but the Sabres are in such disarray that he could start on a scoring line right away. More importantly, he’s a must-own in keeper leagues after a strong NCAA season (30 points in 34 games) and standout world junior tournament (11 points in seven games). Mittelstadt was just added to the player pool in Yahoo leagues, in case you tried searching for him earlier and couldn’t find him.

Thomas Vanek, LW/RW

Vanek might not be known as a playoff scorer, but he’s been an integral add to the Blue Jackets on their recent hot run. Since being acquired from the Canucks a month ago, Vanek has accumulated seven goals and six assists with a plus-12 in just 14 games. He was thought to have been acquired to improve the Jackets’ woeful power play, but surprisingly none of those points have been with the man advantage. Still, he is capable of scoring in bunches, as evidenced by his hat trick against Edmonton on Tuesday.

Boone Jenner, C/LW

If Vanek isn’t available in your league, you could also consider adding his linemate. In fact, Jenner is a more suitable option for your team if your league counts hits, as he leads the Blue Jackets with 192. Like Vanek, Jenner has been on a run of his own with 11 points (6g-5a) over his last 10 games, including three points in Vanek’s hat trick game against Edmonton. So it’s fair to say that as long as the Jackets continue to be hot, Jenner can now also be considered in leagues that don’t count hits.

Neal Pionk, D

If your blue line has been victimized by injuries late in the season, Pionk seems like the perfect fill-in. Pionk recently had a seven-game point streak in which he had 10 points, which has given him 14 points in 23 games overall after his call-up from the AHL. Because of the Kevin Shattenkirk injury and the Ryan McDonagh trade, Pionk has also received first-unit power-play time over the last several games. Pionk also logged a team-high 26 minutes in Wednesday’s game, a number that is usually mostly reserved for a team’s top defenceman.

Valentin Zykov, LW/RW

The shooting percentage might be unsustainably high (23.1 per cent), but the opportunity and recent results are there. Zykov has been skating on the Canes’ top line with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, scoring three goals and two assists in five games. It’s taken awhile for the 2013 second-rounder to see any NHL action, but he has earned it with 52 points in 61 AHL games this season. He’s the perfect example of an under-the-radar player (only one per cent owned in Yahoo leagues) who could help give your team one final push.

Eric Comrie, G

The Jets gave goaltending prospect Comrie a spot start in a 2-1 overtime victory over Los Angeles last Tuesday, and they’re giving him another one on Thursday against Chicago. Spot starts can be difference-makers in fantasy playoffs, and a matchup against a non-playoff team is a great way to pick up a goaltending win at an important time. Comrie is blocked by Connor Hellebuyck as the Jets starting goalie, so he’s only worth a long-term pickup in deep keeper formats. One more start after this one before the season ends might not be out of the question, now that the Jets have clinched a playoff spot.

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