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.

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Cubs wear NFL jerseys for themed road trip

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Cubs wear NFL jerseys for themed road trip

The Cubs headed to Cincinnati in style Thursday night for their final regular-season series of the season.

In what may or may not be the last themed trip of the year implemented by Joe Maddon, Cubs players sported NFL jerseys while they hit the road and some of them are unique.

Kris Bryant went old school with a retro Mike Ditka home jersey while David Ross and Pedro Strop rocked the Bo Jackson home and away Oakland Raiders jersey:

Five Cubs players wore Walter Payton jerseys to represent the Bears:

Here is the full team picture, courtesy of Ross' Twitter account:

 

Other notables: Jason Heyward in a Cam Newton jersey, Jon Lester in a Matt Ryan jersey and the Cubs rookies in cheerleader outfits. Priceless.