Blackhawks have options with 18th pick

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Blackhawks have options with 18th pick

This year there's no Steven Stamkos or Patrick Kane.

The 2012 draft class has been criticized as being weaker than others in the past, and debates still continue around the rankings of top prospects.

As we approach the start of the draft, Russia's Nail Yakupov is expected to come out on top as the first pick. The 18-year-old right winger from the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League has recorded 80 goals and 90 assists throughout his three-season stint in the MHL and OHL. He's expected to be signed by the Edmonton Oilers.

With the 18th overall pick, the Blackhawks will likely be looking at defensemen to boost the team's roster as they prepare for the upcoming 2012-13 season.

Some prospects Chicago may be keeping an eye on are defensemen Derrick Pouliot of the Portland Winterhawks, Matthew Finn of the Guelph Storm, Hampus Lindholm of Rogle U20, Dalton Thrower of the Saskatoon Blades, and Slater Koekkoek of the Peterborough Petes.

Lindholm would provide the greatest size for the team at 6'2, 196 pounds. He has great speed on the ice and isn't afraid to stand up for his teammates when necessary, possessing a physical presence that could work well alongside Brandon Bollig. Finn is known around the league for his strong work ethic and his ability to rush the puck down the ice.

Some scouts and writers have compared Pouliot to former Blackhawk Brian Campbell, known for his high-quality skating and passing abilities. Thrower proved to the Blades that he can deliver on the power play, something that could be a great asset to the Blackhawks' squad.

Although this draft class hasn't been as highly anticipated as others in the past, each of the prospects have strong qualities they could bring to the table in Chicago. Even though they'd likely spend some time in Rockford before seeing NHL playing time, these defensemen could add impressive skills to the team.

The first round of the NHL Draft will take place Friday night in Pittsburgh. The remainder of rounds will take place on Saturday. Make sure to follow @TramyersCSN and @HawksTalkCSN on Twitter for full updates on the Blackhawks.

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

Despite the Cubs ending their 108-year World Series drought, Miguel Montero made offseason headlines for all the wrong reasons when he complained about his role in the Cubs' 2017 championship campaign.

Montero criticized Maddon's communication skills, catching rotation and bullpen decision-making after the team's Grant Park celebration. Maddon brushed off the criticism, and last week at spring training Montero said he hadn't spoke with the Cubs' skipper.

That tension appears to be all but a thing of the past, as Montero posted this picture of him and his manager sharing a drink together sporting nothing but smiles.

It's safe to say Montero would describe his relationship with Maddon now as: #WeAreGood.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Minnesota Wild tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Road warriors.

The Blackhawks have won six straight games away from the United Center, and are looking to make it a seventh in Minnesota tonight. They've scored the game's first goal in four of those wins, and in the other two, overcame 1-0 deficits to beat Dallas 5-3 and Edmonton 5-1, the latter of which they scored five unanswered goals.

2. Corey Crawford vs. Devan Dubnyk.

Crawford hasn't quite been the same since undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3, but he turned in probably his best outing since then in the Blackhawks' last meeting against Minnesota on Feb. 8 when he stopped 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 overtime win. He essentially stole two points, and prevented the Wild from picking up the extra one. Across from him tonight will be Dubnyk, who leads the league in wins (32), goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.934).

3. Jonathan Toews on fire.

After a tough offensive drought earlier in the season that lasted longer than expected, the Blackhawks captain has six goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games, and upped his point total to 37, which now ranks fifth on the team. In the last meeting against Minnesota two weeks ago, Toews had a three-point night and scored the game winner in overtime. 

4. Mikael Granlund among league's most underrated players.

File Granlund under the category of players who don't get enough attention. He has 17 goals and 36 assists in 58 games this season, and his 53 points is tied with Jeff Carter and Artemi Panarin for 13th in the NHL's scoring race. The next highest point total on the Wild is Eric Staal with 45, an eight-point gap between him and Granlund. The 24-year-old forward registered his first career hat trick earlier this month, and also had a 12-game point streak just two weeks ago.

5. Ryan Hartman's closing in on 15 goals.

In Saturday's 3-1 loss to Edmonton, Hartman defended his teammate by fighting an Oilers defenseman that was practically twice his size. He called it a "no-brainer" to stick up for Tanner Kero and did well in the scrap, but it led to an Oilers power play and 10-minute misconduct which didn't do the Blackhawks any favors. He responded in a great way Sunday by scoring the game's first goal that helped his team win 5-1 in Buffalo. The next goal he scores will be No. 15, which would give the Blackhawks six 15-plus goal scorers on the year. They had only four a season ago.

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