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Frozen Fantasy: Big Cat

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Once upon a time, Roberto Luongo actually commanded huge prices in fantasy trades. It was when he still wore that vicious, stick-snapping feline on his chest.

Now Jacob Markstrom is the cat's meow.

"Alien" was absolutely pelted with pucks on Thursday night. The Rangers fired 45 shots at the tall ‘tender and he turned away all but one of them in a 3-1 win.

Remind you of anyone?

Fantasy owners have short memories. I've heard lots of chatter - and worry - that Markstrom will suffer miserably on a bad Florida squad. I guess it's always possible, but why didn't we feel the same way when Roberto Luongo played for the kitties?

Rewind to 2003-04 and Thursday's game was the norm for Bobby Lou. He played in 73 regular season games that season and faced a shopping 2,475 pucks. Only 172 didn't leave a mark on his equipment. His numbers? Just his best ever save percentage (.931) and a near-miraculous 2.42 GAA.

Meow.

That season, Roberto Luongo marked his territory as one of the league's best tomcats. And that happened while playing behind a team that never saw the postseason while he was there. Not once.

Fast forward a decade and the story is almost the same. Now it's Alien's turn to mark his territory as one of the league's best. Bring on the rubber - not rubbers (get your mind out of the gutter). Those pucks will actually help get Markstrom to the NHL elite sooner rather than later.

Fantasy owners should prepare for that now.

Now let's take a look at who caught my eye this week.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard, RW, Minnesota (2 percent owned) - Bouchard is an elite playmaker whose career has been decimated by injuries. But right now, he's healthy and channeling the guy he was when he averaged 60 points a season. He has seven points (one goal, six helpers) in his last four games and is an absolute must-add right now if you need help with helpers.

T.J. Brennan, D, Florida (0 percent owned) - The Sabres may regret trading this slick offensive defender. Sure, he has some own-zone problems, but he's young - he'll improve. And he has two points in three games since taking his game to his new litter box. He's getting power-play time and seems to be enjoying the catnip. He's in my crosshairs and he should be in your, too.

Cedrick Desjardins, G, Tampa Bay (1 percent owned) - Desjardins could be in line for some serious ice time not only because of Anders Lindback's sprained ankle, but also because of Mathieu Garon's soft performances this season. He has to play behind some seriously inconsistent defenders, but goalie points are goalie points. And they're all but impossible to get at this point in the season without a little bit of luck. Roll the dice. I did.

Jonas Enroth, G, Buffalo (3 percent owned) - This is just a hunch, but Enroth could be in line for more ice time after Ryan Miller took that Dion Phaneuf slapper off the head Thursday night. Miller seemed a bit disoriented on the plays immediately after the shot and his rebound control was sloppy through overtime. I don't blame him - Phaneuf busted Joffrey Lupul's arm with his slapper. Enroth isn't a starter, but will be forced into the role if Miller wakes up Friday or Saturday with a brain ache. Watch, wait and be prepared to hit “add.”

Jake Gardiner, D, Toronto (11 percent owned) - Dang, I love how this guy passes. He's only played a couple games since his callup and he's already the Leafs' best skating defender, best first-pass defender, best shot from the point on the PP...you get the point. He picked up a point Thursday, but was one of those guys you notice for so many more reasons. Snap him up - the fantasy production is bound to come quick.

Peter Harrold, D/RW, New Jersey (0 percent owned) - Once upon a time, Harrold projected as a great-skating, dependable blueliner who could hit the tape of the fastest forwards. He even tallied 43 points in 49 games in the AHL back in 2007-08. But then came spot duty and multiple splinters from time in the press box, and that promise all but disappeared...until recently, that is. His plus-minus is a drain, but a three-game point streak isn't. Roll him on - he might help - but dump his butt the moment he slips back into his old ways.

Roman Josi, D, Nashville (10 percent owned) - Get him and do it now. Josi has exploded offensively in his last four games - try six points (one goal, five assists including three on the PP). He can't possibly keep it up, but he could settle into the pace I thought he'd deliver when he was gift-wrapped the number two job in Music City, USA. Check your wire.

Chad Johnson, G, and Jason LaBarbera, G, Phoenix (0 and 1 percent owned, respectively) - Mike Smith took a shoulder check to the head from Alex Edler late in the second period Thursday night and couldn't return for the third. Uh-oh. LaBarbera came in and did fine, but I fully expect Johnson to be recalled - Smith has a history of head injuries and could be out a while. Neither Johnson nor LaBarbera are great options. But the ‘Yotes play such a strong game in their own-zone that rolling one of them might help you maintain those important goaltending categories.

Brooks Laich, C, Washington (7 percent owned) - Laich made his season debut this week and while he started out on a lower line, he won't be there long. He can play in the top six and on the power play, and there's every reason to think those opportunities will come again...and soon. He big and smart, and he might gain right wing eligibility before long. He's worth stashing if you have an available roster spot.

Guillaume Latendresse, LW, Ottawa (2 percent owned) - Don't look now, but this former 25-goal sniper was riding a three-game point streak (two goals, two assists) heading into play against Boston on Thursday night. I don't trust him - he's played just 39 games over the last three seasons. But he comes cheap and could inject some badly-needed goals into your lineup.

Dmitry Orlov, D, Washington (0 percent owned) - Slick, smooth and smart - that's Orlov. He has high-end skills on the back end and he now has a chance to show off those skills (again) in Washington. Mike Green's return Thursday might muddy things for him, but Green is just another injury just waiting to happen. And Orlov's 12 points in 22 AHL games might translate into similar production in the NHL if he gets some power-play time. Check his ice time in the next couple games to make sure he's not AHL-bound. Then snap him up.

Tuomo Ruutu, LW, Carolina (4 percent owned) - Ruutu played Thursday for the first time this season. And like Laich (above), he started on a bottom line. The guy plays a multi-category game, but has never learned how to moderate his style to prevent injuries. I need to see more from him before I'm picking him up - he's the poster child for injury risk. But I'll pull the trigger fast if he looks healthy and hungry. The reward won't be great, but it'll be a lot better than the usual kind of quick-hot, quicker-cold waiver grab from this point of the season.

Back to Bobby Lou and the Alien.

Both of them had some rough outings early in their Florida careers. And Markstrom will have a few more. But my gut says his career trajectory will climb sharper and faster than Luongo's did. And he'll even get those kitties to the playoffs.

There's real fantasy value in that.

Now if only he got to wear that awesome stick-snapping kitty on his chest.

Until next week.