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Canucks GM hoping to draft first-line forward

Jim Benning says Vancouver would like to use No. 5 pick to help offense

by @NHL

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning called his trade of Jared McCann "a tough trade to make" but believes he can find a replacement for the 20-year-old forward with the No. 5 pick at the 2016 NHL Draft, which will be held at First Niagara Center in Buffalo on June 24-25.

"I feel we can," Benning told Sportsnet on Friday. "Picking at [No.] 5, I believe we're going to get a first-line forward there."

The Canucks on Wednesday traded McCann and two draft picks to the Florida Panthers for 24-year-old defenseman Erik Gudbranson and a fifth-round selection in the 2016 draft.

"I think we gave up a lot too in the deal," Benning said. "I like Jared as a player, and I really believe he's going to become a top-six forward in the NHL and a productive player."

Benning said it was difficult giving up a second-round pick in the trade. He said Vancouver is better for having Gudbranson, a first-round pick (No. 3) in the 2010 NHL Draft, in its organization, particularly against its Pacific Division opponents, including the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks.

"We play in a division where there are some big, heavy teams in [the Ducks, Kings and Sharks]," Benning said. "One of the things with our group on the back-end this year, I didn't think we were big and strong enough, and when teams would start cycling against us, we had a tough time knocking the other forwards off the puck.

"The other teams in our division, [the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Arizona Coyotes] all have some good, young, fast players. So with Erik in our lineup, against the big, heavy teams, he'll be able to compete down low to stop the cycle, and with these teams that have these fast players that skate through the neutral zone 100 mph, they're going to have to keep their heads up."

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