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.

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

Corey Crawford is back and it didn't look like he skipped much of a beat. The Blackhawks were handed their first regulation loss of the season to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, but the 33-year-old netminder stopped 27 of 30 shots (.900 save percentage) in his season debut and made several timely saves to keep his team in it.

In the larger picture, it was a win based on how well Crawford looked between the pipes.

"Yeah, I think it is," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice on Friday. "It's one of things we were wondering, how he would handle post-game and how he came in today. Very encouraging signs. He felt good in all aspects of what he went through and dealt with, and practiced well today too, so that was good."

The first one is in the books.

But what's the plan going forward? Will Crawford be on a "pitch count" or will they treat him like they have in past seasons when he was healthy?

In the past, Crawford has generally started somewhere in between 55-58 games per season. Part of that has been because of injuries. Another part is the Blackhawks have had reliable backups, which allowed them to give Crawford an extra night off here and there to keep him fresh.

It's not unreasonable, though, to think Crawford could flirt with 50 starts, considering he missed only five games to start the season. And they can still accomplish that by playing it safe.

The Blackhawks have 13 more back-to-backs this season, which gives them the opportunity to start Cam Ward at some point in each of them. That leaves room for another 15 or so starts to sprinkle in for Ward that could serve as rest days for Crawford and still being on track to start around 50.

Obviously, the Blackhawks want to be careful with how much they ask of Crawford because concussions are tricky to deal with and every player responds differently to it.

His return comes at a time where the Blackhawks are slated to play seven games in 11 days after playing just two in the previous 10. Thursday marked the start of that stretch.

"He’ll tell us how he feels and we’ll go from there and make those decisions," Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks have been on record saying they prefer not to carry three goaltenders. But in this case it makes sense. At least in the short term.

Quenneville said Friday that the Blackhawks will reevaluate the situation at the end of the weekend following the beginning of a busy stretch where they'll play three games in four days.

"Yeah, that’s the mindset," he said. "Let’s see how we handle these three in four and then we’ll address it."

Crawford is expected to start on Saturday in Columbus, making it his second start in three days. That's when they'll get a better sense of how he's handling things.

If it were up to him, Crawford said he feels he's prepared for it.

"Yeah, sure," Crawford said. "Why not? I've been working hard with [strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman]. He's got me where I need to be, so I'm in shape right now. Why not?"

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut


Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!