Blackhawks

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

dylan_cozens_nhl.jpg
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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Jonathan Toews releases powerful statement on George Floyd's death, mass protests

Jonathan Toews releases powerful statement on George Floyd's death, mass protests

Chicago athletes — both former and current, including Michael Jordan — have been speaking out following the death of George Floyd and the mass protests that ensued over the weekend. Jonathan Toews joined that group on Monday, sharing a powerful statement on Instagram.

Here's what the Blackhawks captain had to say:

View this post on Instagram

A lot of people may claim these riots and acts of destruction are a terrible response. I’ll be the first to admit that as a white male that was also my first reaction. But who am I to tell someone that their pain is not real? Especially when it is at a boiling point and impossible to hold in anymore. It’s obviously coming from a place of truth. This reaction isn’t coming out of thin air. I’m not condoning or approving the looting, but are we really going to sit here and say that peaceful protesting is the only answer? There has been plenty of time for that, and if it was the answer we would’ve given it our full attention long ago. Listen to these two men debate. They are lost, they are in pain. They strived for a better future but as they get older they realize their efforts may be futile. They don’t know the answer of how to solve this problem for the next generation of black women and men. This breaks my heart. I can’t pretend for a second that I know what it feels like to walk in a black man’s shoes. However, seeing the video of George Floyd’s death and the violent reaction across the country moved me to tears. It has pushed me to think, how much pain are black people and other minorities really feeling? What have Native American people dealt with in both Canada and US? What is it really like to grow up in their world? Where am I ignorant about the privileges that I may have that others don’t? Compassion to me is at least trying to FEEL and UNDERSTAND what someone else is going through. For just a moment maybe I can try to see the world through their eyes. Covid has been rough but it has given us the opportunity to be much less preoccupied with our busy lives. We can no longer distract ourselves from the truth of what is going on. My message isn’t for black people and what they should do going forward. My message is to white people to open our eyes and our hearts. That’s the only choice we have, otherwise this will continue. Let’s choose to fight hate and fear with love and awareness. Ask not what can you do for me, but what can I do for you? Be the one to make the first move. In the end, love conquers all. #blacklivesmatter

A post shared by Jonathan Toews (@jonathantoews) on

A lot of people may claim these riots and acts of destruction are a terrible response. I’ll be the first to admit that as a white male that was also my first reaction.

But who am I to tell someone that their pain is not real? Especially when it is at a boiling point and impossible to hold in anymore. It’s obviously coming from a place of truth. This reaction isn’t coming out of thin air.

I’m not condoning or approving the looting, but are we really going to sit here and say that peaceful protesting is the only answer? There has been plenty of time for that, and if it was the answer we would’ve given it our full attention long ago.

Listen to these two men debate. They are lost, they are in pain. They strived for a better future but as they get older they realize their efforts may be futile. They don’t know the answer of how to solve this problem for the next generation of black women and men. This breaks my heart.

I can’t pretend for a second that I know what it feels like to walk in a black man’s shoes. However, seeing the video of George Floyd’s death and the violent reaction across the country moved me to tears. It has pushed me to think, how much pain are black people and other minorities really feeling? What have Native American people dealt with in both Canada and US? What is it really like to grow up in their world? Where am I ignorant about the privileges that I may have that others don’t?

Compassion to me is at least trying to FEEL and UNDERSTAND what someone else is going through. For just a moment maybe I can try to see the world through their eyes. Covid has been rough but it has given us the opportunity to be much less preoccupied with our busy lives. We can no longer distract ourselves from the truth of what is going on.

My message isn’t for black people and what they should do going forward. My message is to white people to open our eyes and our hearts. That’s the only choice we have, otherwise this will continue.

Let’s choose to fight hate and fear with love and awareness. Ask not what can you do for me, but what can I do for you? 
Be the one to make the first move. In the end, love conquers all.

#blacklivesmatter

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Blackhawks' Zack Smith issues statement following death of George Floyd, protests

Blackhawks' Zack Smith issues statement following death of George Floyd, protests

On Monday, Blackhawks forward Zack Smith tweeted out a statement in the wake of George Floyd's death and the mass protests that ensued over the weekend.



Smith's full message read: 

"As a privileged white man playing in the NHL (a predominately white league) I feel it's as important now as ever to show support for the black community and encourage change. If you think the current way black people and other minorities are treated here today is ok.... you are a racist. If you don't have an opinion or are 'neutral' on this subject then you are ignorant and very misinformed. 

"I strongly disagree with rioting and looting of homes and small businesses but if you resent this movement because of the actions of a few vandals then you are missing the point entirely. As hockey players we sometimes come off as robots in our interviews and stay clear of opinions on most social issues and controversy. 

"Personally I don't like posting my opinions on social media these days for several reason(s). However with the amount of racist people (especially those in positions of power) being exposed during this movement I felt the need to show my support for the black community and the need for change. Please be safe and take care of each other out there."

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