Blackhawks

Early NHL mock draft: Six potential candidates for Blackhawks at No. 3 overall

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NHL

Early NHL mock draft: Six potential candidates for Blackhawks at No. 3 overall

The 2019 NHL Draft has a similar feel to last year's draft. There's no debate about which players are going No. 1 and 2: Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko.

The No. 3 spot is where it gets interesting and could go in many different directions. Luckily for the Blackhawks, they'll be the ones to decide how it unfolds after the ping pong balls moved them up nine spots from No. 12 to No. 3 in what's being viewed by the organization as "a game-changer."

Whether the Blackhawks should keep it or look to trade it is a discussion for another day, but let's dive right into some possible candidates for the Blackhawks at No. 3 overall (in alphabetical order):

1. Bowen Byram, D

The Blackhawks have taken three defensemen (Nicolas Beaudin, Adam Boqvist and Henri Jokiharju) in the first round of the past two NHL Drafts, and also used a second-rounder in 2017 to take Ian Mitchell. But their philosophy is usually to go for the best available player and that could be Byram.

Byram, who's only 17, racked up 71 points (26 goals, 45 assists) in 67 games this season for the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. He also has 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in nine playoff contests.

At 6-foot-0, 193 pounds, Byram is a supremely gifted skater and can take over a game at any moment. He's a minutes eater and can play effectively in all three zones. If the Blackhawks are looking to add to their pipeline of defensemen, he's the best in this class.

2. Dylan Cozens, C

The Blackhawks have a strong 1-2 punch up the middle in Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome. But you can never have enough high-end centermen, and with Toews now in his 30s, it's important to start collecting some pieces that could be building blocks for the future.

Cozens, 18, is the third-ranked North American skater, according to NHL's Central Scouting rankings. In 68 games for the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL, he accumulated 84 points (34 goals, 50 assists), won 49.2 percent of his faceoffs and had a plus-38 goal differential at 5-on-5. He also had eight points (four goals, four assists) in seven postseason contests. Good things happen when he's on the ice.

At 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Cozens is known to be smooth skater, pure goal scorer and smart defender who can kill penalties. That sounds like someone the Blackhawks could use.

3. Kirby Dach, C

There's only one player ranked above Dach in NHL's Central Scouting North American skater rankings and that's Hughes, who's expected to go No. 1 overall. 

Dach, 18, has spent the last three seasons with the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL, where he ranked third on the team this season with 73 points (25 goals, 48 assists) in 62 games and scored five game-winning goals. He also led the Blades with seven points (five goals, two assists) in seven postseason tilts.

At 6-foot-4, 197 pounds, Dach has the makings to be a big, powerful center who's hard to play against. He can play in all situations, including both the power play and penalty kill, and can play the role of a shutdown centerman. 

4. Peyton Krebs, LW/C

The Blackhawks have had a rotation of players at left wing over the last couple seasons, so there's certainly a desire to start adding some high-level talent in that area and giving their centers offensive playmakers and goal scorers to play with. They also like having versatility up front and players who can bounce around positions if needed. Krebs would fit the description here as a player who can also play center.

The 18-year-old forward led the Kootenay Ice of the WHL this season with 68 points (19 goals, 49 assists) in 64 games, and did so while facing the highest quality of competition on a nightly basis. Krebs, 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, is known to have a terrific hockey IQ and plays with a high motor. He's also the captain of Kootenay, showing he's got the leadership qualities every team aspires to have in the locker room.

5. Vasili Podkolzin, RW

The No. 1 European skater after Kakko? That would be Podkolzin.

Podkolzin, 18, is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound Russian winger who has all the qualities teams are looking for in a player. He can skate, he can score, he's got a competitive edge, has an elite hockey IQ and is just as effective on the defensive side of things.

The potential hang-up here is that Podkolzin's contract with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League reportedly runs through the 2020-21 season, although TSN's Craig Button said Tuesday night that he doesn't have any doubts that Podkolzin will play in the NHL next season.

6. Alex Turcotte, C

This is the kind of player that catches your attention and will jump off your TV screen. 

Turcotte, 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, is an 18-year-old center who's known to be an offensive playmaker with elite speed and plays a 200-foot game. In 30 games with the U.S. National Under-18 team this season, he posted 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) for a points-per-game average of 1.77.

Turcotte is an Illinois native, and even spent one season with the Chicago Mission Under 16 team. If the Blackhawks are looking for a flashy player that can score, Turcotte can be that guy. But he's committed to play at Wisconsin for the 2019-20 season, so it's unlikely he would make the jump to the NHL right away.

*All advanced stats via prospect-stats.com

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Blackhawks announce second round of roster cuts

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USA Today

Blackhawks announce second round of roster cuts

After making a first wave of roster cuts to pare their roster down from 55 to 49, the Blackhawks announced a more significant second round Saturday afternoon.

Per the team, forwards Dylan Sikura, Matthew Highmore, Brandon Hagel, Philipp Kurashev, Mikael Hakkarainen, Alexandre Fortin, Reese Johnson, MacKenzie Entwistle, defensemen Nicolas Beaudin, Joni Tuulola, Lucas Carlsson and goaltender Matt Tomkins have all been assigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The Blackhawks roster now consists of 33 players: 18 forwards, 11 defensemen and four goaltenders. 

The news comes just hours before the Blackhawks square off with the Bruins in the team's fourth game of the preseason Saturday night.

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Blackhawks announce lineup for fourth preseason game

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USA Today

Blackhawks announce lineup for fourth preseason game

The Blackhawks announced the full 16-man roster for the team's preseason matchup against the Bruins tonight, and there are a couple interesting decisions to note:

 

For the second straight game, Alex Nylander will play on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, a further indication that he has impressed head coach Jeremy Colliton with his recent play. In two preseason games with the Blackhawks, Nylander has tallied one goal and two assists. 

Additionally, newcomer Olli Maata and Brent Seabrook stick together as the second defensive pair. Maata and Seabrook have been consistently paired together since Training Camp Festival.

It was also announced that Robin Lehner will start in goal and play the entirety of the game, which will give the team and fans alike a look at what they can expect from the newly acquired goaltender.

You can watch the Blackhawks and Bruins square off tonight at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago+ or via the MyTeams app.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.