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06/19/2012 2:09 PM - Rockford, Ill.- Friday will mark the beginning of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and the Chicago Blackhawks are looking to continue to stockpile prospects in their system.  With the 18th pick of the draft, some experts are predicting that defense will be the route that the Blackhawks take in the draft this weekend in Pittsburgh.

The consensus number one ranked player in the draft is center Nail Yakupov.  The right winger from the Sarnia Sting (OHL) played in 42 games, compiled 31 goals and 69 points.  The Nizhnekamsk, Russia native will make a nice addition to the Edmonton Oilers young lineup according to experts.

In the last ten years, the Blackhawks have selected two centers, five wingers and three defensemen in the first round.  This year, the organization may be looking to shake up and break the mold of drafting forwards in the opening round at the draft, but the team’s needs are not as glaring as last year when the Hawks targeted a center (Mark McNeill) with their first pick.

Experts have scattered opinions on who the Hawks will pick but defensemen and goaltenders are the common factors in this year’s mock drafts.  The only name that came up on multiple mock drafts was defensemen Matt Finn.

If the Blackhawks choose not to take Finn, its suggested that another great option is goaltender Malcolm Subban from the Belleville Bulls (OHL).  He is pegged as the number one North American Goaltender in the draft.

The last five drafts alone have seen the Blackhawks take 14 centers, 9 wingers, 15 defensemen, and four goaltenders. 

Here’s a look at the experts mock drafts and who they predict the Blackhawks will pick with the 18th selection in the first round.

Mike Morreale ( Mark Jankowski, C, Stanstead College (High-QC)

Adam Kimelman (  Matthew Finn, D, Guelph (OHL)

Steven Hoffner (  Malcolm Subban, G, Belleville (OHL)

Gus Katsaros ( Andrei Vasilevski, G, Tolfar (MHL)

Jeff Langridge ( Matt Finn, D, Guelph (OHL)

Here is a list of the top ten defensemen in the draft according to Bleacher Report 2012 NHL Mock Draft.

Ryan Murray, Everett (WHL); 31 points (9g-22a) in 46 games

Mathew Dumba, Red Deer (WHL); 57 points (20g-37a) in 69 games

Morgan Rielly, Moose Jaw (WHL); 18 points (3g-15a) in 18 games

Jacob Trouba, USA  U-18 (USHL); 18 points (4g-14a) in 22 games

Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton (WHL); 38 points (12g-26a) in 58 games

Olli Maatta, London (OHL); 32 points (5g-27a) in 58 games

Cody Ceci, Ottawa (OHL); 60 points (17g-43a) in 64 games

Hampus Lindholm, Rogle (Elisterien); 4 points (1g-3a) in 20 games

Derrick Pouliot, Portland (WHL); 59 points (11g-48a) in 72 games

Slater Koekkoek, Peterborough (OHL); 18 points (5g-13a) in 26 games

The scouting reports on the four predicted picks are as follows:

Malcolm Subban (G)- Bellville Bulls (OHL), 2.50 GAA, .923 save percentage;   Great positioning and competitive fire, terrific lateral mobility and able to make great plays from anywhere in the crease.

Mark Jankowski (C)- Stanstead College (MPHL), 93 points (53g-43a) in 57 games, 1.63 points per game, plus 51; Young talent, a center that makes those around him better, strong two way player.

Matthew Finn (D)-Guelph Storm (OHL), 48 points (10g-38a) in 61 games, 58 PIM’s;  His great hands with the puck, hockey sense, and his defense first mentality make him a priority to any team in need of strong defense background.

Andrei Vasilevski (G)-Tolspar Ulfa (MHL), 2.23 GAA, .931 save percentage; Great stickhandling, flexibility, high athleticism, and mental toughness make him an ideal goaltender that an organization can build around

Check out all week as we preview the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Monday, June 18th:  Draft Breakdown
Tuesday, June 19th:  Mock Drafts
Wednesday, June 20th:  Breakdown of the Blackhawks first overall picks over the past 20 years
Thursday, June 21st:  A look at the first round draft picks who have played for Rockford
Friday, June 22nd:  An update on the progress of all of Chicago’s draft picks from the 2009-2010 draft

Season Tickets for 2012-13 Now on Sale: Season ticket packages for the IceHogs 14th season of professional hockey in Rockford, including sixth as the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, are now on sale. Call (815) 847-6399 to reserve your seats or visit for more information.