Blackhawks

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."

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

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USA TODAY

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

The wait is almost over.

After missing nearly 10 months with a concussion, Corey Crawford said he expects to start on Thursday when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center. An official decision will come following the team's morning skate.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. ... It was a pretty long process. But I think the most important thing was not to rush anything. When I finally was out, it got to a point where I wasn’t in shape to play and it was time to rest and it’s unfortunate it took a lot longer than I would’ve liked. 

"It’s been long, but finally, just to get back and be practicing with the team has meant a lot. It’s good to get to this point now when you’re really close to playing. Practices have been great, been getting timing a little bit more and getting up to speed and reading shots and all that, so it'll be nice to finally get in one."

Crawford's last appearance in an NHL game was Dec. 23, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils when he allowed three goals on seven shots in 13:22 of action before getting pulled. So of course, emotions will naturally be running high, especially in front of the hometown crowd.

"I'm sure I'll be a little anxious getting into it," Crawford said. "Some nerves. But we'll see. We'll wait until the morning, but I'm definitely excited I can tell you that."

It's obviously terrific news for the Blackhawks, who have picked up eight out of a possible 10 points to start the season and are getting their two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie back between the pipes. It's been a long time coming, and Crawford is coming back into a healthy situation where the Blackhawks are in a good spot in the standings.

"It's great news, I'm sure it'll be exciting for him exciting for our team, exciting for our fans and the organization as well," Patrick Kane said. "It’s probably a good situation all around. Cam [Ward] has done a great job of playing in the net so far. Crow is really good in practice right now, so I’m sure he’s itching to get back, too. We’ve had a good start here. It’s something we want to keep going, and I’m sure him coming back on home ice, in front of our crowd, will be a fun one for him and for our team."

There's no doubting how important Crawford is the team and organization. While there may be a little bit of rust early on, the Blackhawks are expecting him to look like his old self.

"He means a lot to the team," Quenneville said. "We felt last year was a good example of how important he was and how well he was playing for us, as well. We’ve gotten off to a decent start and he was a big factor in it. We know that goaltending is such a big part of the team and your success a lot of nights depends on him and his consistency’s always been in place.

"But he looks good in the net. He’s been off for a long, long time. Is there rust? Do we expect rust? I think the way he’s competing and practicing and finding pucks, he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. So we’re looking forward to him getting in there and getting comfortable and how he’s feeling going forward will dictate a lot of the decisions about him going back in."

Bill Belichick scoffs at Khalil Mack-Lawrence Taylor comparison

Bill Belichick scoffs at Khalil Mack-Lawrence Taylor comparison

All of the good graces Bill Belichick may have won on Tuesday afternoon -- when he compared the Bears' offense to Kansas City's -- are officially gone. 

Today, when talking to reporters, a Khalil Mack-Lawrence Taylor comparison came up. Belichick, who coached LT as the New York Giants’ defensive coordinator in the 1980s, was NOT having it: 

"Wait a minute, we’re talking about Lawrence Taylor now. I’m not putting anybody in (LT’s) class. Put everybody down below that. With a lot of respect to a lot of good players, we’re talking about Lawrence Taylor."

A bit harsh, Bill. 

For what it's worth, here's Khalil Mack's 2018 projection, assuming his latest ankle injury doesn't make him miss time: 

20 sacks, four interceptions, 16 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries

That's .5 sacks less and four INTS, 16 FFs and 4 recoveries more than LT had in his 1986 MVP season. And yeah, maybe "they didn't record tackles/fumbles in 1986" and "16 forced fumbles would not only blow the current record (10) out of the water but is just plain unrealistic" but whatever, we're just sayin'. 

UPDATE: shocker, LT agrees: