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Jeff Paterson: Canucks get seven

by Jeff Paterson / Vancouver Canucks

As spectator events go, the Vancouver Canucks weekend at the National Hockey League Entry Draft in Los Angeles was a lot like watching that other sporting spectacle that has captured much of the globe’s attention – soccer’s World Cup.

There was a burst of action followed by long stretches without much of anything happening.

In the end, the Canucks will leave Tinseltown with one big name, big league defenceman, a young pro who still needs to prove himself, three blueline prospects, a point-a-game junior centre and a little more depth in goal.

Without question, the high point of excitement for the Canucks – and their loyal followers – was Friday’s acquisition of defenseman Keith Ballard from the Florida Panthers. Ballard was certainly saying all the right things in the moments after learning he was heading back to the Western Conference after breaking into the NHL with the Phoenix Coyotes.

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Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight.

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"I'm excited to go to a great hockey team,” Ballard told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “They're one of the best teams in the NHL. Initially I didn't like the idea of getting traded, but in the last 24 hours after all these phone calls from everybody telling me, 'You're on your way out, you're on your way out,' I've kind of been prepared for it. It didn't shock me. To have it happen and end up with a city and team like Vancouver, it couldn't have worked out any better."

After trading away their first round pick as part of the deal to acquire Ballard and Victor Oreskovich and then sitting idle during the second and third rounds of Saturday’s second day at the draft, the Canucks finally got a chance to make a selection in the fourth round, 115th overall. With that pick, they took mobile defenseman Patrick McNally from Milton Academy in Milton, Massachusetts. The 6’2” 180-pound Long Island, NY native led his team in scoring with 35 points in 28 games last season.

“He created a lot of offense from the blue line and provided a lot of spark,” Milton’s head coach Paul Cannata said on the Milton Academy website. “He (McNally) is a great student, a good kid and a pleasure to coach. He loves to play hockey, carry the puck, skate, and make plays. There's a freshness to his game that is really enjoyable. You don't want to coach that out of him."

In the fifth round, the Canucks grabbed 6’3” defenceman Adam Polasek from Prince Edward Island in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He’s a Czech native who made the jump to North America to play junior hockey this past season and was named to the QMJHL’s all-rookie team after scoring 13 goals, recording 41 points and 91 penalty minutes in 66 games.

In the sixth round, the Canucks selected 19-year-old Niagara Ice Dogs centre Alex Friesen who had 23 goals and 60 points in 60 Ontario Hockey League games. Not the biggest player in the draft – listed at 5’10” and 189 pounds – Friesen has seen his point totals jump from 14 to 33 to 60 in three seasons in the OHL. The Canucks used their second pick in the sixth round to take goalie Jonathan Iilahti who spent last season in the Finnish junior league. Not listed by Central Scouting in the mid-term rankings, the 6-footer was slotted sixth among European goaltenders in the year-end CSB rankings.

And with their final pick in the draft – 205th overall in the 7th round – the Canucks stuck with the theme of the weekend and continued to bolster their back end selecting Sawyer Hannay from Halifax in the QMJHL. At 6’4” and 190 pounds, Hannay appears to have done most of his work with his gloves off rather than on – he had just one goal, but engaged in 18 fights and was fourth in the Q with 158 PIM in 54 games.

According to independent scouting service Red Line Report: ‘As assets go, huge and mean are a fine place to start.’

"I really like the rough stuff and, in my opinion, that’s the way to play the game,” Hannay told the Halifax Chronicle Herald in the days leading up to the draft. “You level with the game, you level with your opponents when you’re playing physical and it brings out the heart in a player.”

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