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.

TSN coaches poll: Wild favored to win West over Blackhawks

TSN coaches poll: Wild favored to win West over Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups since 2010, and have eliminated the Minnesota Wild from the playoffs three times from 2013-15.

But it's the Wild that NHL coaches believe will win the Western Conference this season as we approach the trade deadline.

In his annual midseason poll, TSN's Bob McKenzie surveyed 25 of 30 coaches to vote on multiple categories, such as the league's best player and the team most likely to win it all.

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According to the survey, 11 coaches predicted the Wild will win the West while the Blackhawks and Sharks tied for second with four votes.

As for winning the Stanley Cup, the Washington Capitals are the favorite, earning 10 votes, followed closely by the reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins with eight. The Wild and Blackhawks rounded out the poll with three and two votes, respectively.

Joel Quenneville earned one vote as the NHL's best coach, which is three fewer votes than he had last year, despite this year being arguably his most challenging — and best — coaching job since arriving in Chicago, given the youth on the roster.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Excluding Jimmy Butler, who should Bulls trade?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Excluding Jimmy Butler, who should Bulls trade?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune) and Phil Rogers (mlb.com) join Kap on the panel. Super Bowl LI is set. Can Bill Belichick slow down the Falcons historic offense? Will Tom Brady be able to pick apart Atlanta’s D?

Plus besides Jimmy Butler, who should the Bulls trade? And after winning in Columbus, is this the year Northwestern goes dancing?

Check out the SportsTalk Live Podcast below: