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.

Recruiting News and Notes: Mitch Lewis' recruiting stock soaring

Recruiting News and Notes: Mitch Lewis' recruiting stock soaring

Mitch Lewis (TE), Naperville North

Naperville North senior three-star ranked tight end Mitch Lewis (6-foot-6, 215 pounds) has seen his overall recruiting stock soar over the past month, as he's now touting 10 verbal scholarship offers and has more interest growing by the day.

"It's been a pretty wild last week or two," Lewis said. "It just seems like a lot of schools decided to offer me. It all came out of nowhere to be honest and it feels pretty amazing."

Lewis has added several of his 10 offers over the past few weeks and ran down his list of offers.

"I have offers now from Hawaii, Wyoming, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, South Dakota, Missouri State, Southern Illinois, Illinois State and Northern Iowa," Lewis said. "Also Iowa, Penn State and Purdue have also been in touch weekly, and both Iowa and Penn State are coming to watch one of my basketball games this week. I have a feeling some of the Big Ten schools are getting closer to offering me."

Lewis, who made his first official visit to Wyoming back in November is planning to set more official visits in January.

Joshua Maize (DE), Deerfield

Deerfield senior three-star ranked defensive end Joshua Maize (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) has switched up his planned official visit schedule, and he will make his first official visit this weekend.

"I'm making my first official visit to UConn this weekend," Maize said. "I was suppose to go to Miami of Ohio last weekend but they wanted me to reschedule. I was suppose to go to Miami of Ohio last weekend but they wanted me to reschedule since I was the only recruit scheduled to visit."

So what is Maize looking for when he visits UConn?

"I'm just looking forward to seeing the campus and the surrounding area," Maize said. "I've never been out East before so I want to see what UConn has to offer. I'm also looking forward to getting to know the coaches and the guys on the team. UConn also is supposed to have great facilities and I'm excited to see the different facilities along with the overall environment at UConn."

Maize has also drawn late recruiting interest from a handful of schools.

"Syracuse has been showing a lot more interest," Maize said. "They have a few offers out to Juco kids so they are waiting to see what happens. Syracuse wants me to make an official visit in January. I'm also talking weekly with Toledo and Central Michigan. I'm sure I'll set more visits in January but for now my focus is on UConn this weekend."

[MORE: The 2016 Edgy Tim All-State Team]

Nick Marozas (OL), Brother Rice

Brother Rice junior offensive linemen Nick Marozas (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) added his first scholarship on Monday from Minnesota.

"Getting my first offer from Minnesota feels great," Marozas said. "It was a bit of a surprise. I talked to one of the coaches on Monday morning and then later in the day they called my coaches at school then they offered me a scholarship."

Marozas visited Minnesota earlier this fall and came away impressed with the Gophers.

"I visited Minnesota last month for the Homecoming game against Purdue," Marozas said. "I had a chance to talk to the coaches at Minnesota on that visit and that went well. I liked the campus, the facilities and the stadium. Minnesota is just a great program and school and it's pretty exciting to get my first offer from a great Big Ten program."

Marozas has drawn interest from Minnesota along with Syracuse, Illinois, Indiana, Northern Illinois and Navy. Marozas plans to make a mid January unofficial visit to Syracuse.

Alec Palczewski (OT), Prospect

Prospect senior offensive tackle Alec Palczewski (6-foot-6, 270 pounds) has seen his recruiting stock soar late this fall. Palczewski, who added his first offer from Illinois a few weeks ago, now has added offers from the Fighting Illini along with Vanderbilt and Syracuse. Minnesota, Iowa and Indiana have also started to take interest in Palczewski.

Rick Hahn: White Sox 'still thoroughly, deeply engaged' in trade talks as meetings close

Rick Hahn: White Sox 'still thoroughly, deeply engaged' in trade talks as meetings close

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The White Sox have a pair of relievers to dangle and have become increasingly busier with two of three free-agent closers off the board.

Prior to leaving the Winter Meetings on Thursday, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn was asked if a pool of relievers including closer David Robertson and setup man Nate Jones had drawn much interest.

Having already traded Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, it’s believed the White Sox are willing to part with most anyone if the price is right. It sounds as if that possibility has improved after the Yankees’ late night signing of Aroldis Chapman on Wednesday, two days after the San Francisco Giants signed Mark Melancon. With only Kenley Jansen still left in free agency and due a big salary, Robertson, who has two years and $25 million left on his deal, could solve several teams’ relief needs. Jones is also a draw with potentially five years left on his current team-friendly deal, which includes two club options and one mutual option for 2021.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“We’ve had a lot of interesting conversations on a number of different fronts involving are players,” Hahn said. “And yes, we still have reliever pieces and starting pieces that are appealing to various teams throughout the league. I don’t think anything is going to happen between now and the time I go pick up my bags and head to the airport. But still thoroughly engaged, deeply engaged on a number of different fronts.”

Despite adding five pitchers and two position players through their first two moves, the White Sox still have a long list of desires. That list potentially includes a long-term starting catcher and another big bat among others.