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Frozen Fantasy: Sam I Am

Janet Eagleson

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

A night like Thursday happens once in a blue moon. Or a lifetime … as it did for Sam Gagner.

Sam I am.

Gagner was still in his mother’s womb the night the last man – Mario Lemieux – potted eight points in an NHL game in 1989. Lemieux was the 12th.

Lucky 13. Sam I am.

Gagner’s feat puts him in elite company. Before Lemieux came the likes of Rocket Richard, Darryl Sittler, Bryan Trottier, Paul Coffey ... and the great one, Wayne Gretzky, among others. Sam’s the man.

Gagner had pretty much fallen out of favor in Oil Country before Thursday night. But that sure changed in a big hurry. The Oilers rushed him to the NHL and expectations were high after a 49-point rookie season. The team stalled and so did his development. But the soon-to-be UFA … and his fantasy owners … are about to cash in big time.

Sam’s going to be a very rich man.

He can center the top line, the job he’s performing while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is out. And he just showed 29 other teams that not only is he up for the job when paired with elite talent but that he can utterly dominate elite opposition.

Doesn’t that just screw the Oilers now.

The Oil would love to trade Gagner. And jumping 90 guys on the scoring list in one night sure does wonders for his trade value. But how do the Oilers trade a man who has become a part of Oil Country folklore?

Gretzky. Coffey. And Gagner. Wow.

Gagner’s fantasy owners have it easy. Trade high. And do it as soon as you can – this week, next or over the summer. He will easily grow into a 60-point center and could some day get close to a point-per-game. If he ever stays healthy.

But it’s always best to make a move when his value is highest. Like right now.

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

Gilbert Brule, LW/C, Phoenix (0 percent owned) – Has Brule rekindled some of the hope that made him the sixth overall pick in 2005? Phoenix seems to be a fit for this buddy of Bono and he has delivered a modest four points in eight games. Nothing spectacular by any means, but those points have come in the six games leading into this weekend and his left wing eligibility makes him worth a look. And besides, I’ll give a roster spot – at least for a few games – to any guy with the onions to pick up a rain-soaked, hitch-hiking rock star and then stick him in the backseat with a damp dog. Classic.

David Clarkson, RW, New Jersey (22 percent owned) – Cy Young is the new breed of NHL tough guys. He has five points in his last two games and his 19 goals this season put him on pace for close to 30 – yes, you read that right. And 140-150 PIMs. Last year, there were just two guys – Corey Perry and Milan Lucic – who scored 30 goals and had more than 100 PIMs. Clarkson should be owned in a lot more than one in five leagues. A lot more.

Andrew Cogliano, LW/C, Anaheim (2 percent owned) – Guess who I dropped Monday? Yup, that loud sound you heard overnight Tuesday – after watching Cogs record a hat trick – was me banging my head on my keyboard after kicking him to the curb the day before. I still have the QWERTY bruises. His game isn't pretty but he’s been one of the best quackers on the ice over his last few games. It’s a burst of output that could help those of you in super-deep leagues.

Ty Conklin, G, Detroit (7 percent owned) – At this point in his career, Conklin is barely passable as a back up. But Jimmy Howard’s broken finger means Conklin is now prince of the hill in Motown. It’s a sketchy proposition but he is 2-1 in his last three starts. Trouble is he only has three wins in limited action all season. The Wings play five of their next seven games at home, where they are 20-2-1. Even one of those vinyl goalie trainers Velcroed in the net would win half his starts in Detroit. Just keep an eye on AHL call-up Joey MacDonald (see below).

Cody Hodgson, LW/C, Vancouver (20 percent owned) – I’m impressed. I’ve always liked him but I’ve been admittedly concerned about his injury history and his lack of foot speed. But he has been one of the best Orcas at times this season and was rewarded with Rookie-of-the-Month honors for January on the back of 10 points (6G, 4A) in 11 games. I’ve stashed him on one of my keeper rosters but he actually has value in one-year leagues, too, particularly on the flank.

Joey MacDonald, G, Detroit (0 percent owned)Jimmy Howard’s broken digit – and Ty Conklin’s incompetence – are Joey MacDonald’s gain. He could see as many as half of the Wings’ next seven starts and he could win every one. In all honesty, I’d take Joey Mac over Conklin any day. You should, too, if you’re desperate for goalie points. Or just suffering through a broken digit.

Paul Martin, D, Pittsburgh (4 percent owned) – Martin is one of those steady, boring, boy-next-door types who never really get too emotional about anything … good or bad. But he has to be smiling inside with his recent run of six helpers in his last eight games. He may never put all the pieces together to become the smooth, 45-point defender I expected. But this kind of output deserves a run on your roster.

Mathieu Perreault, C, Washington (2 percent owned) – Some of the best players in the NHL are small guys. Martin St. Louis. Jordan Eberle. Patrick Kane. Even Daniel Briere and the currently disappointing Derek Roy. Sadly, Perreault isn’t in the same class as the guys I just listed, but he did manage a hat trick against Boston and two helpers against the Pens right before the All-Star break. And those teams aren’t exactly chopped liver. Deep leaguers should take a look – he has enough speed and offensive talent to be a decent depth filler in big leagues.

Mikael Samuelsson, RW, Florida (8 percent owned) – Samuelsson has decent skills and opportunity, two things that can make a seasoned fantasy owner giddy. So why is he only owned in 8 percent of leagues? He’s seriously lacks sex appeal for one. Add on his inconsistency – it drives head-to-head leaguers nuts. And he’s ‘old’ – a 35-year-old just doesn’t get much fantasy action in an era where shiny, young toys distract. Still, he has five points (including three goals) on his current four-game scoring streak and 11 points in 17 games with the kitties. And he could be good for another 20-22 points by season’s end. That’s cheap value going forward and worth snagging off your wire.

Anton Stralman, D, NY Rangers (1 percent owned) – The smooth-skating Swede has two points in his last three games and has been rewarded with increased time on the power play. He’s really nothing more than a PP specialist, but he could be worth a snag, particularly if he can help his team improve on its 13.7 percent power-play percentage. After all, that’s good for an unspectacular 25th in the league. Gag. But dump him again if he doesn’t immediately help in the next three games. You can’t afford to wait at this point in the season.

Back to Gagner.

I’m glad I got to see that game. I actually caught myself jumping up and cheering for him with each point.

But there’s a bigger trend here. And it’s that trend that seriously impacts the fantasy scene.

There are moments – not as big as Gagner’s but significant nonetheless – that artificially inflate fantasy value. They’re classic sell-high opportunities. Do not overvalue – and keep – a guy like Gagner simply because you feel smug about scooping him off the wire just before he obliterated the Hawks. And your best trade target? As much as I hate to say this, I’d run as fast as I could to the Canadians in your pool.

They seem to be most vulnerable to the flavor of the week. And especially if he plays on a Canadian team. That’s almost a license for highway robbery.

Lastly, I just want to apologize for the one-day delay in this week's column. A couple weeks ago, my right wrist and elbow were crushed in an ugly collision with the boards on one side and a 200-pound beer leaguer on the other. No fracture in the wrist so I thought I was free and clear. But this week, the swelling went through the roof and of course typing aggravates it.

At least I was able to pop the guy in the back of the head with my free hand after the collision. And then share beverage time together afterwards.

Until next week.