Carmel's Young a pitcher to watch

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Carmel's Young a pitcher to watch

According to editorpublisher Sean Duncan of Chicago-based Prep Baseball Report, Carmel pitcher Alex Young "has jumped up and is high interest now" among major league scouts. "The pros are on him," Duncan said.Young, a 6-foot-3 lefty with a 92 mph fastball and a knee-buckling knuckle curve, caught the scouts' attention for the first time last summer and has kept them coming back to see more, especially after he struck out eight of nine batters he faced in the spring season opener against Warren."His fate will be sealed in the next month," said Duncan, predicting more and more scouts will be evaluating him. Young has been told he could be picked as high as the third round in the major league draft on June 4 while others claim he won't be selected among the first 300 picks."It is intimidating to see (the scouts) behind the plate, 25 radar guns going off with every pitch," Young said. "But I don't pay attention. I just focus on the catcher's mitt and waiting for the pitch call. I feel calm."For now, I'm off to college. But if I get drafted high and the money is there, I won't pass it up. My parents want me to get my education. I'm set on college at the moment."Young, who is committed to Texas Christian, attracted 25 scouts for his start against Libertyville and likely will command a similar audience when he starts Wednesday against Joliet Catholic. He thinks he is as good a prospect as Mundelein pitcher Ryan Borucki and he wants to prove it.A year ago, however, nobody knew who he was and nobody with a bat in his hand dared to find out. "Last year, he didn't have control. You didn't want to be anywhere near home plate when he was pitching. He was wild," said Carmel coach Joe May."I had a mentality where I wanted to strike everyone out and it didn't work," Young said. "I've overthrow everything. In my first game, I walked six batters in one inning."Young also had health issues. "Coming into the season, I was known as the 'Big Horse.' But I struggled in my first game. Then I had elbow pains. I sat out a month with tendonitis. Then the coach found one or two other pitchers and I was out of the loop. I didn't have a chance to pitch, only five innings. I played outfield and designated hitter. It was a down year for me. You don't think about it and you move forward," he said.But he was eager to bounce back as a senior. His comeback began last winter with daily drills at a local training facility. He pitched bullpen once a week, engaged in long toss with Carmel teammate and close friend J.C. Pawlak and did J-bands, a series of aerobic exercises designed to add strength and flexibility to the arm."My goal was to have command of all of my pitches in the strike zone," said Young, who also worked with Carmel pitching coach Mike Miller. "He said to me: 'This is the year for you. We're riding on you.' He got me pumped up."During the summer, he began to attract college coaches to his games. They informed major league scouts that they should evaluate him. In July, he was among the 50 top pitchers in the Midwest invited by the Midwest Scouting Association to participate in a showcase event in Kansas City. TCU saw him and offered a scholarship in October. He accepted."Whenever you hit 90 on a radar gun and you're a lefty, it will turn heads. And he did," May said. "What we love about him is he will throw his curve in any pitch count. It's a big-time curve, 10 to 5. I'm not surprised he is doing this well. I knew he had it in him."In three games, Young has allowed only two hits and only one earned run while averaging two strikeouts per inning. While his fastball catches the eyes and radar guns of the scouts--he was timed at a personal-best 93 mph against Warren--he insists his go-to pitch is his knuckle curve."I started throwing it in seventh grade," he said. "For some reason, I couldn't throw a curve. But I could throw a knuckle curve. Not too many high school kids throw it. So batters haven't seen it before. People don't know whether to call it a curve or a slurve. It breaks with a 10-to-5 action, a really sharp break."It figures that Young's role model is Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, another lefty who struggled early in his career before he found a way to control his overpowering fastball and curve."He struggled early. Then he proved people wrong, said 'I can do whatever I want," became the best lefty in major league baseball and got to the Hall of Fame," Young said. "Thats the perception that people have of lefties, that they are sometimes out of control. I want to prove them wrong, too."Young has a more immediate goal. Because he competes in the same town as Mundelein lefty Ryan Borucki, who is judged by Prep Baseball Report as the No. 1 prospect in Illinois, Young is determined to demonstrate that he is as good as Borucki."I think I'm equally as good," Young said. "Both of us have command of our pitches. I've seen him pitch personally. I feel my curve has more break than his does. But his changeup is nasty. I was in Marion when he threw his no-hitter against Cary-Grove. I got there in the sixth inning and he was sitting guys down. No one could touch him. But I think I'm just as good."Time will tell, of course. "Borucki is a bit more of a pitcher than a thrower. Alex can throw the heck out of it. He is becoming more of a pitcher. What I like is he has developed into a leader on our team," said May, a 1978 graduate of Carmel who once played for Eddie Stanky at South Alabama."My fastball has been climbing. I'm still getting up there on the radar gun," Young said. "But that's not what it is all about. It's about getting first-pitch strikes. I walked the first batter in my first game, then struck out eight of the next nine. I'm keeping my walks down. That's a huge factor for me."

First goal with Blackhawks 'a release' for Tomas Jurco

First goal with Blackhawks 'a release' for Tomas Jurco

Tomas Jurco's reaction to his first goal on Monday night was as much celebration as a little bit of relief. The forward, acquired by the Blackhawks about a month ago, had had a few great scoring chances in recent games but just couldn't capitalize.

Finally, he got that first of the season against Tampa Bay.

"It's kind of a release, you know?" Jurco said on Wednesday. "I've had a lot of good chances and it would just never go in for some reason. Obviously I'm very happy that it went in and hopefully this is the start of, I would say, more luck for me."

Looking for consistency in his own game as well as a consistent spot in the lineup, Jurco was looking for a boost of confidence. Getting that first goal could be part of it, as a bit of a weight disappears with that zero in the goal column. 

"That's a hurdle that can be in the back of your mind a lot and all of a sudden it could be a nice release," coach Joel Quenneville said of that first goal. "He's progressing in our team game, technically. Whether it's his pace of play or going to the right areas quickly, we're looking for progression. We saw it [Monday] night and I think he'll continue to get better off that. But certainly that should help him get confidence as we go along here."

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Jurco's been around the net, something the Blackhawks always encourage, for most of those scoring opportunities. Perhaps some of that puck luck wasn't quite there. But Jurco is gaining confidence in recent games, and getting that goal could boost it that much more.

"I've always said, especially in my case, scoring helps that confidence come easier. It brings that fun to the game," Jonathan Toews said. "Maybe if you're not feeling it or not playing with high energy, at a certain point in a game when you score, for some reason you get that jolt, you get that jump. For [Jurco], he's been playing well when he's been in, and no doubt that scoring a goal like that can help boost confidence and help him find his game, which we know he has and will continue to show."

The scoring hurdle has been cleared and Jurco is gaining confidence. Will he carve out a consistent spot in the lineup? Quenneville has some options through the bottom six. That, coupled with the Blackhawks playing inconsistent hockey lately and missing that four-line rotation, Jurco's been one of several who have been in and out of the lineup. But Quenneville said on Wednesday, "I don't see making constant changes once the [playoffs] begin." If Jurco keeps getting chances and capitalizing on a few, and if he ends up as part of a rotation that's successful again, he could stick.

Jurco waited a little bit for that first goal. He hopes it's just the start.

"You know eventually it's going to go in but it was just frustrating. Another game and another and another with good chances and it just wouldn't go in. So it's a big release," Jurco said. "Hopefully I'll keep going, keep producing."

CSN Chicago's 2017 NFL Mock Draft: Version 2.0

CSN Chicago's 2017 NFL Mock Draft: Version 2.0

With most of the heavy lifting already done in free agency, we look ahead to the 2017 NFL Draft as 31 teams try to build a roster that will compete with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

It's early in the process with the draft still a month away, so expect some change in each mock draft we unveil.

So without further adieu, check out CSN's 2017 NFL Mock Draft version 2.0:

1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett (EDGE), Texas A&M

The Browns don't need to make this rocket science. Garrett is arguably the best defensive lineman to come out of college since Julius Peppers. There shouldn't be any drama at No. 1 this year.

2. San Francisco 49ers: Solomon Thomas (DL), Stanford

Thomas' stock has risen more than any other prospect since the NFL Combine and it appears to be a real possibility he will hear his name called at No. 2. Thomas fulfills a major need on the edge for the 49ers and would become a foundation piece on their front-seven alongside last year's first-rounder DeForest Buckner.

3. Chicago Bears: Jamal Adams (S), LSU

Bears GM Ryan Pace has put the team in a position to draft the best available player at No. 3. While quarterback could still be in play here, I expect the Bears to look on the defensive side of the ball after giving Mike Glennon $18.5 million in guaranteed money. If it weren't for Jonathan Allen's shoulder issues — I can't see Pace taking a flyer on another player with medical red flags after seeing what's happened with former first-rounder Kevin White — he would probably be the pick here. Adams can play either strong or free safety, and would provide immediate stability by becoming the field general the Bears have been lacking in the secondary since the days of Mike Brown. 

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette (RB), LSU

After handing out blank checks to defensive studs Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye this offseason, it's time for the Jaguars to add some talent to their backfield. Fournette's unparalleled size/speed combo make him a once-in-a-generation talent at the running back position. 

5. Tennessee Titans: Marshon Lattimore (CB), Ohio State

I was tempted to give Marcus Mariota another weapon in the passing game, but pairing Lattimore with free-agent addition Logan Ryan would give the Titans one of the best cornerback duos in the AFC. 

6. New York Jets: O.J. Howard (TE), Alabama

Outside of defensive line, the Jets have needs pretty much everywhere on the field. Howard is a Top 5 talent and would be a nice security blanket for whoever plays quarterback for the Jets in 2017.

7. Los Angeles Chargers: Malik Hooker (S), Ohio State

Last year's first-round Buckeye (Joey Bosa) worked out quite well for the Chargers so why not go that same route? Hooker would join Jason Verrett and Casey Heyward in an already-dangerous Los Angeles secondary.

[RELATED: Complete 2017 NFL Draft coverage]

8. Carolina Panthers: Jonathan Allen (DL), Alabama

The Panthers don't have a glaring need on the defensive line, but if a talent like Allen is still on the board at the bottom of the Top 10, the Panthers would rush to the podium to call his name.

9. Cincinnati Bengals: Reuben Foster (LB), Alabama

The Bengals could use a replacement for recently-released inside linebacker Rey Maualuga and Foster has the chops to step in and start Week 1.

10. Buffalo Bills: Mike Williams (WR), Clemson

With Tyrod Taylor back in the fold, the Bills need to find playmakers to put around him. Pairing Williams with Sammy Watkins would give Buffalo a formidable pair if both players could put their injury history behind them.

11. New Orleans Saints: Derek Barnett (EDGE), Tennessee

Barnett has been one of college football's premier edge rushers over the years with 33 sacks during his time at Tennessee. A tandem of Cam Jordan and Barnett would be troublesome for opposing offensive lineman.

12. Cleveland Browns: Mitchell Trubisky (QB), North Carolina

After securing Garrett, the Browns are in an excellent position to find their long-term answer at quarterback with their second first-round selection. Trubsiky only started one year at North Carolina, but he has the skillset that NFL GMs salivate over. 

13. Arizona Cardinals: Deshaun Watson (QB), Clemson

At some point the Cardinals need to find a successor to Carson Palmer who appears close to the end of his NFL career. Watson's leadership skills would mesh well with a head coach like Bruce Arians and a veteran-laden locker room in Arizona. 

14. Philadelphia Eagles: Gareon Conley (CB), Ohio State

The Eagles have a pressing need at cornerback and in a division with Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Dez Bryant, the birds need to find a corner who could slow down opposing No. 1 wideouts.

15. Indianapolis Colts: Taco Charlton (EDGE), Michigan

The Colts added John Simon and Jabaal Sheard this offseason, but neither player is going to put much of a scare into opposing offensive coordinators. Charlton's pass-rushing skills and athleticism would provide a major boost to the Colts' front seven.

16. Baltimore Ravens: Corey Davis (WR), Western Michigan

The Ravens have talent at the wide receiver position, but they're lacking a true top-flight No. 1 wideout. Davis' physical style of play has drawn comparisons to Brandon Marshall, and he should be able to contribute right away after starting all four years at Western Michigan.

17. Washington Redskins: Haason Reddick (LB), Temple

On the surface, Reddick looks like an inside linebacker at just 6-foot-1, but the former Temple star created havoc in the backfield with 17.5 sacks and 47 tackles for a loss during his college career. The Redskins defense could use a linebacker such as Reddick's who could play all over the field.

18. Tennessee Titans: John Ross (WR) Washington

The Titans have failed at bringing in a No. 1 wide receiver thus far in the offseason, and while Ross isn't your prototypical No. 1, he's a big-play talent who is capable of scoring anytime he touches the ball. Ross would thrive in the Titans offense with quarterback Marcus Mariota slinging the rock.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dalvin Cook (RB), Florida State

The Buccaneers have a pressing need at running back and Cook's explosiveness and familiarity with quarterback Jameis Winston (the duo played together at Florida State in 2014), make this a made made in heaven.

20. Denver Broncos: Garett Bolles (OT), Utah

It's no secret the Broncos need help at offensive tackle, and Bolles is arguably the most talented lineman in the 2017 NFL Draft.

21. Detroit Lions: Takkarist McKinley (EDGE) UCLA

After an injury-plagued season season from Ezekiel Ansah, the Lions are seeking help on the edge. If not for a shoulder surgery following the Combine, McKinley would likely be a Top 15 selection.

22. Miami Dolphins: David Njoku (TE), Miami

The Dolphins traded for Julius Thomas earlier this offseason, but no team should count on a player who hasn't played more than 12 games in a season since 2014. Njoku has the talent to become one of the league's top tight ends very early in his career.

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23. New York Giants: Ryan Ramczyk (OL), Wisconsin

It would be a shock to see the Giants go any route other than offensive line when their first pick rolls around in late April. Ramczyk could play on either the right or left side, and would provide stability in front of quarterback Eli Manning.

24. Oakland Raiders: Malik McDowell (DL), Michigan State

The Raiders need to address their defensive line with either a Day 1 or 2 pick and McDowell, when motivated, has the talent to dominate for 60 minutes. 

25. Houston Texans: Patrick Mahomes (QB), Texas Tech

I'll be shocked if the Texans go into the season with just Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden in their quarterback cupboard. After whiffing on Brock Osweiler last offseason, Houston needs to find an answer at the position. While he's raw, Mahomes possesses the strongest arm in the current draft class. If head coach Bill O'Brien can get back to his quarterback whispering ways, Mahomes would be an ideal fit for the Texans.

26. Seattle Seahawks: Quincy Wilson (CB), Florida

The Legion of Boom has turned into more like the Legion of Swoon as of late. The Seahawks need to find another shutdown corner, and Wilson's length and physicality fit the mold of the type of corner Pete Carroll likes in his secondary. 

27. Kansas City Chiefs: DeShone Kizer (QB), Notre Dame

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid needs to look to the future with starting quarterback Alex Smith turning 33 later this spring. Kizer has the look of a prototypical quarterback and possesses the physical tools to succeed at the next level. The Chiefs would be a perfect landing spot for Kizer who would be best suited to sit for a year behind Smith.

28. Dallas Cowboys: Tre'davious White (CB), LSU

It would behoove the Cowboys to address their leaky secondary with an early pick in this year's draft. White has the athleticism and instincts to turn into a No. 1 corner over time, and should be able to contribute in the slot during his rookie season.

29. Green Bay Packers: Christian McCaffrey (RB), Stanford

Just what Aaron Rodgers needs: another dangerous weapon who can line up in the backfield or in the slot and become a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. McCaffery is dynamite in the open field and brings the type of versatility that Packers GM Ted Thompson craves.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Charles Harris (EDGE), Missouri

The Steelers had the second-lowest sack total (21) in the NFL last season and their best pass rusher will be turning 39 in May. Harris could contribute early in his career as a situational pass rush specialist and would be a nice addition to 2015 first-round pick Bud Dupree.

31. Atlanta Falcons: Forrest Lamp (OG), Western Kentucky

Lamp, a four-year starter at left tackle, is projected as a guard at the next level. Lamp could start in place of Chris Chester, giving the Falcons a lethal offensive line for their already-dangerous ground attack.

32. New Orleans Saints: Marlon Humphrey (CB), Alabama

The Saints have been trying to land restricted free agent corner Malcolm Butler from the Patriots and if they're unable to do so, expect them to target a corner with one of their first round selections. Humphrey was inconsistent at Alabama, but has all the physical tools coaches look for at the cornerback position.