Blackhawks

Ayers hopes to thwart Bears passing attack

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Ayers hopes to thwart Bears passing attack

Last week when the Colts offense took the field in Nashville, they were greeted by a new look Titans defense. Second year linebacker Akeem Ayers was shifted to defensive end and was on the field almost exclusively in passing situations. Ayers, the team's leading tackler, found himself on the sideline for more than half of the Titans defensive plays.  Through the first seven games this season, Ayers was on the field for over 90 percent of defensive snaps, but a well-rested Ayers proved dominant against the Colts as the former UCLA standout harassed Andrew Luck, racking up seven tackles and a sack. Ayers hopes to give Jay Cutler the same treatment.

Ayers spoke with John Glennon of The Tennessean regarding his new role:

Its something where I feel like I can be a lot more disruptive in pass-rushing situations, just using my instincts and working at it, said Ayers. I feel like I have a good knack for getting to the quarterback because thats what I did in college.

While the Titans defense seems to be on the rise, the Bears defense has taken the league by storm. The Bears are tied for the lead in the NFL with 16 interceptions, with Tim Jennings leading the team with six picks of his own. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck hasnt thrown a pick in his last two starts, but the veteran knows he will have to be perfect to keep that streak going against the Bears. Hasselbeck shared his thoughts with Tennessean reporter Jim Wyatt.

You can tell when they play an offense, they understand the concepts of what the offense is trying to do and also the timing that theyre trying to do it, Hasselbeck said. So its all got to line up perfectly for us to take that opportunity, take that shot or whatever.

NHL Draft Profile: D Noah Dobson

NHL Draft Profile: D Noah Dobson

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Noah Dobson

Position: Defenseman
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 180 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"A very effective two-way defenseman with good puck distribution and a strong shot from the points on the power play. He is a point-producer with size, who defends and utilizes strong positioning and a good stick in the defensive zone."

NHL player comparable: Brent Burns

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks lacked defensemen that generated offense last year. They also lacked defenders than can ... defend. Dobson is a player who can do both, and if he slips past Vancouver at No. 7, the Blackhawks may have a difficult decision on their hands.

Dobson could solve some of those defensive issues, but it likely wouldn't be in time for the 2018-19 season. He needs time to develop properly.

The Blackhawks like to evaluate prospects based on what their ceiling is and where they're at in their development curve, and if they see major upside here, they'll go for it. It just depends if there's somebody available that they like better.

NHL Draft Profile: F Jesperi Kotkaniemi

NHL Draft Profile: F Jesperi Kotkaniemi

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Position: Center
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 189 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"Kotkaniemi has been a top-six forward for his league team in Finland all season and had a very solid U18 season relative to his historical peers in the league. He has very good hands that are high-end, if not flashing elite. He can make very skilled plays off an entry, but what impresses me is how well he can control the puck and keep plays alive."

NHL player comparable:

Fit for Blackhawks:

There isn't a player that has climbed the rankings in such a short amount of time than Kotkaniemi, who was initially projected to go outside the top 10 but could go as high as No. 3 overall. It's likely because there aren't many high-end centers in this draft, and he's the top one.

If Kotkaniemi happens to slip to No. 8, it may be hard for the Blackhawks to pass up on him. He's versatile, too, which is always a bonus, especially when playing under Joel Quenneville. But if they view him as a center, here's how the Blackhawks would look down the middle: Jonathan Toews, Nick Schmaltz, Kotkaniemi and Artem Anisimov.

Um, yeah. That'll work.