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Vancouver Canucks' general manager Mike Gillis listens to a reporter's question during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday May 14, 2009. The Canucks have nine unrestricted free agents and four restricted free agents. Goaltender Roberto Luongo, hard-nosed defenceman Willie Mitchell, and gritty forward Ryan Kesler are all entering the final year of their contracts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck (DARRYL DYCK)
Vancouver Canucks' general manager Mike Gillis listens to a reporter's question during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday May 14, 2009. The Canucks have nine unrestricted free agents and four restricted free agents. Goaltender Roberto Luongo, hard-nosed defenceman Willie Mitchell, and gritty forward Ryan Kesler are all entering the final year of their contracts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck (DARRYL DYCK)

Canucks focus on 'D' Add to ...

The Vancouver Canucks continued to stockpile defencemen at the NHL draft on Saturday and made a big statement in the process - preparation for the team's long-term future starts now.

The Canucks used three of their five remaining picks to select defencemen on the draft's second day after trading for veteran Keith Ballard on Friday.

Patrick McNally went to Vancouver in the fourth round, followed by fellow defenders Adam Polasek in the fifth round and Sawyer Hannay in the seventh.

The Canucks used their two picks in the sixth round on centre Alex Friesen and goaltender Jonathan Iilahti.

Vancouver GM Mike Gillis said he could take more of a long-term focus in 2010 after several successful drafts in recent years.

"We had done very, very well the last couple of years with our selections, I think," Gillis said. "So we have a little room to try to approach the draft a little differently this year."

McNally, 18, led Milton Academy in Massachusetts in scoring last season. The six-foot-two, 180-pound defender finished with 14 goals and 20 assists in 27 games.

"With Chris Tanev, Kevin Connauton and now McNally, we've got three (defencemen) who are offensive guys in development," Gillis said. "We'll see which ones emerge."

McNally, of Glen Head, N.Y., is committed to play at Harvard and will not sign a professional contract this season.

"We want him to stay at Harvard," Gillis said. "Why do you go to school? You go to get better at something.

"I feel that there's merit in looking at kids that are predisposed to continuing to educate themselves about anything, no matter what it is. We want smart kids."

Polasek, who will turn 19 in July, spent last season with P.E.I. in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The six-foot-three, 190-pound native of the Czech Republic had 13 goals, 28 assists and 91 penalty minutes in 66 games.

The 17-year-old Hannay, a native of Moncton, N.B., who also offers size at six-foot-four, 190 pounds, amassed 158 penalty minutes in 54 games for Halifax in the QMJHL in 2009-10.

Friesen, a native of St. Catharines, Ont., had 23 goals, 37 assists and 94 penalty minutes in 60 games with Niagara of the Ontario Hockey League.

The 18-year-old Iilahti had a 2.67 goals-against average to go along with one shutout in 14 games in Finland's junior league.

 

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