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Time to panic?

Welcome to the first installment of the Fantasy Mailbag here on Without further adieu, let's get right into things.

I am in a keeper league and have managed to collect quite a number of Blue Jackets over the last five years. N. Zherdev and G. Brule are on my roster while D. Brassard and J. Voracek are on my prospect list.

I'm not too confident in Brule and pretty shaky on Zherdev. What is your take on these four players? I also hold four goalies on my prospect list: C. Price, T. Rask, O. Pavelec, and S. Varlamov. What can I expect from each of them, be it this season, next season or further in the future? Love reading the fantasy column, look forward to hearing back from you.

Josh, Edmonton

Hey Josh,

First, your Columbus guys. Zherdev is having a good start to his season, so if there are any bites out there I would jump on it and trade him.

Granted, his upside is great...but I just don't think he is worth the headache. It seems as if he will have an up and down career, so if you can get an equal player who won't have the 'down' part, then go for it.

Brule is young and I think he will be a point-per-game star in the NHL. You won't see it this year, nor will you see it next – but look out in 2009-10. Be patient with him.

Voracek and Brassard are also on track to be stars and are great prospects. Both players should make the team next year and they may even give you 50 or 55 points (although I don't see a big explosion as rookies).

Price, if I can make a bold prediction here, will be a top three goalie in the league, probably sooner rather than later. Do not under any circumstances trade him.

Pavelec will be the backup in Atlanta next season and given Kari Lehtonen's injury history, he may be a starter in the not-so-distant future. Eventually, he will become an above-average starter in the NHL.

Rask is still a couple years away from becoming a backup and probably another year or two beyond that before he is a starter. He, too, looks like he will be an above-average starter.

Varlamov is the confusing one. There are some experts who feel he is ready to step in within two years and some who feel he could be six or seven years from full-time starting duty. I am part of the latter group...but I've been wrong before!

He is your wildcard, he may be great – and soon. He also may be mediocre and the wait could be long.

10 Team Points League, points for pretty much all stat categories starting - 3C, 6F(C or W), 6D, 2G. I currently have…C - Ruutu, Sakic, Sundin, Carter, Horton, Richards, Bouchard, Marleau, Cullen; F-Heatley, Huselius, Shanahan ,Afinogenov ,Cole; D -Aucoin, Boucher, Murphy ,Pothier, Seabrook, Whitney, Hainsey; G - Fleury, Thomas, Roloson, Lehtonen (IR).

 Available Forwards are Stajan, Samuelsson, Sjostrom, M. Koivu, Kessel, Vermette, Zherdev. Available Defensemen are Huskins, Seidenberg, and Commodore.

 Are there any obvious moves you would recommend? Or any overachievers that might be valid trade bait?

Thanks, in advance. Thanks for the pre-draft info on Cory Murphy.

He seems to be paying off.

Scott, Plymouth, Mich.

Hi Scott,

I’m looking at your team and I’m looking at what is available and I’m not seeing anything that knocks me over in terms of waiver-wire transactions.

The biggest question marks on your team are Cullen up front and Pothier and Hainsey on the point. Cullen, however, is having a strong start to the season and while grabbing a Mikko Koivu or a Phil Kessel or a Nik Zherdev is tempting, you may not be any further ahead – especially if transactions are limited.

Cullen is obviously a big overachiever and you may find some bites there on the trading block.

Sundin is also overachieving and if this is a keeper league, he would be a good one to move.

On the point, I don’t like your choices at all on the waiver wire. Leave that be.

Is it too early to pass judgment on Thomas Vanek and Patrick Marleau and begin shopping around for a legitimate scorer?

John, Philadelphia

Hi John,

It is far too early.

First of all, Vanek is not all that far off the mark – two decent games and he’s back on track for an 85-point season and that is where I peg him to finish.

Marleau had a strong second half last season and I think you will see that happen again this time around. Be patient with him for another two months and you’ll see him start to really pick it up.

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