Rotoworld's 2016 NHL Mock Draft: Early first-round predictions

Rotoworld's 2016 NHL Mock Draft: Early first-round predictions

Rotoworld's Gus Katsaros released his first 2016 NHL mock draft version. Check out how he sees the first round unfolding:

1. Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews (C) — Toronto's lengthy quest for No. 1 center looks answered thanks to fortuitous Draft Lottery. The Scottsdale, Arizona native brings a tantalizing package of size, speed, and skill.

2. Winnipeg Jets: Patrik Laine (LW) — Jets prefer top-line center but happily settle for ultimate consolation prize. Finnish 'beast' gives Winnipeg dynamic left wing attack along with Nik Ehlers and Kyle Connor.

3. Columbus Blue Jackets: Jesse Puljujarvi (RW) — Odds are slim that Finnish-born GM Jarmo Kekalainen will pass on splendid physical specimen in fellow countryman Puljujarvi. Will likely be groomed as centerman.

4. Edmonton Oilers: Olli Juolevi (D) — Despite bounty of forwards available at No. 4, Oilers opt to fill dire need for top-pairing blueliner with gifted Finnish puckmover Juolevi.

5. Vancouver Canucks: Matthew Tkachuk (LW) — Canucks sort out the dizzying choices available up front and go with skill, grit and intelligence on the flanks in Tkachuk.

6. Calgary Flames: Alexander Nylander (LW) — Skill is the order of the day as the Flames add a versatile and highly-gifted forward. Sparks could fly with Nylander on a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett.

7. Arizona Coyotes: Jake Bean (D) — The Coyotes appreciate the necessity to get the puck to a crop of promising forward prospects — and peg the smart, mobile and skilled Bean.

8. Buffalo Sabres: Pierre-Luc Dubois (LW) — Buffalo had Nylander in the crosshairs, but settle for talented 'jack-of-trades' type in Dubois, arguably the safe pick here though perhaps not the home run.

9. Montreal Canadiens: Michael McLeod (C) — Under-appreciated toiling in shadows of teammate and fellow draft star Alex Nylander ... with size, breathtaking speed and an F1 motor, Habs may get last laugh.

10. Colorado Avalanche: Mikhail Sergachev (D) — The Russian factor grows on the Avalanche with selection of big, hard-shooting blueliner ... followed up strong import season in Windsor with inconspicuous U18 WJC.

11. New Jersey Devils: Clayton Keller (C) — The ever-flowing creativity of diminutive center Clayton Keller may be just the right catalyst in New Jersey's lineup.

12. Ottawa Senators: Logan Brown (C) — An impressive performance for Team USA at the U18 WJC is proof enough for Ottawa to select the huge, talented playmaking center.

13. Carolina Hurricanes: Tyson Jost (C) — A record-setting performance for Team Canada at the U18 WJC gets Jost a chance to help fill holes up the middle with Eric Staal gone.

14. Boston Bruins: Jakob Chychrun (D) — Big, mobile and athletic, Chychrun has all the physical attributes to mature into a staunch two-way NHL blueliner — development will be key.

15. Minnesota Wild: Charles McAvoy (D) — With Ryan Suter getting on in age and question marks on the blueline, the Wild take the skilled, fleet-skating McAvoy on heels of terrific freshman year at Boston University.

16. Detroit Red Wings: Dante Fabbro (D) — With a number of intriguing forwards still on the draft board, Detroit makes a partly surprising choice in Fabbro, a smart, steady two-way defender. 

17. Nashville Predators: Dennis Cholowski (D) — Nashville continue the run of blueliners by taking the Chilliwack standout whose progression over the second half of the BCHL season suggested home run potential.

18. Philadelphia Flyers: Luke Kunin (LW) — The Flyers opt for duty over dazzle with a versatile 'plug-and-play' forward whose contributions usually go beyond the score sheet. Led Wisconsin with impressive 19 goals as freshman.

19. Tampa Bay Lightning: Logan Stanley (D) — Stanley adds another towering figure to Tampa's blueline, however also a player who polarized opinions on the 'half-full-half-empty' debate. Too much projection for certain tastes.

20. Boston Bruins (from San Jose): Kieffer Bellows (LW) — The B's passed on Brian Bellows with the first overall pick back in 1982 — but don't same mistake with son Kieffer, a strong-shooting sniper.

21. New York Islanders: Adam Fox (D) — Oozed skill and creativity all season while displaying great chemistry with Clayton Keller and especially on the power play. Needs work on strength and defense, but upside is intriguing.

22. Arizona Coyotes (from N.Y. Rangers): Julien Gauthier (RW) — Arizona book the bullet train with big, fast, hard-shooting winger who fired impressive 41 goals in 54 games. Stock fell though amid questions on level of hockey smarts.

23. Carolina Hurricanes (from Los Angeles): Riley Tufte (LW) — The Canes can use some size and scoring from the wings  and tab Blaine High School star Tufte, a mammoth winger with soft hands and surprising athleticism and agility.

24. Florida Panthers: Brett Howden (C) — Howden performed well for Team Canada at the U18 WJC, demonstrating his skating, versatility, and steady high work rate. Re-joins brother Quinton, taken 25th overall in 2010.

25. Anaheim Ducks: Max Jones (LW) — Plenty for Anaheim to like in the Rochester, Minnesota native — a big, aggressive power forward with loads of speed, skill and moxy.

26. Winnipeg Jets (from Chicago): German Rubtsov (C) — Missed opportunity to showcase himself at U18 WJC thanks to Russian doping scandal. Brings size, skill and mobility, and a potential top-six center for Jets.

27. Toronto Maple Leafs (from Pittsburgh): Boris Katchouk (LW) — Leafs could go any direction with this pick but settle on Soo Greyhound forward Katchouk whose size, skating, and character may be a fit alongside Auston Matthews some day.

28. St. Louis Blues: Pascal Laberge (RW) — Laberge adds a skilled, slick-skating forward to St. Louis mix. Plays center or wing and has shown flashes of high-end potential; needs to develop physical play, work consistency.

29. Calgary Flames (from Dallas): Tage Thompson (RW) — The 6-5 Thompson turned in a strong freshman showing at the U. of Connecticut, playing on the right wing; has good hands, excellent shot — and holds equal allure as a centerman.

30. Washington Capitals: Jordan Kyrou (RW) — Some Caps showed their age in the playoffs and prompt the selection of speedy playmaking forward in Kyrou. Stock steadily rose following standout Top Prospects Game.

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?