Canada

Canucks select Russian forward Vasily Podkolzin 10th overall in NHL draft

VANCOUVER—The Vancouver Canucks picked Russian forward Vasily Podkolzin 10th overall at the NHL draft on Friday.

The 17-year-old from Moscow played part of last season for St. Petersburg of the KHL and was the No. 2 European skater on the NHL Central Scouting prospect list.

Podkolzin, six-foot-one 196 pounds, captained Russia at the under-18 world championships. He had one goal and four points in seven games to help his country win silver.

The selection was announced at Rogers Arena where the Canucks are hosting this year’s draft.

Some of Vancouver’s recent first-round draft picks have quickly become key to the club’s rebuilding process.

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Last year, the Canucks scooped up defenceman Quinn Hughes seventh overall. The 19-year-old made his NHL debut in March and tallied three assists before the end of the season.

Hughes was in the crowd at Rogers Arena on Friday, cheering for his younger brother, Jack Hughes, who was picked No. 1 by the New Jersey Devils.

Elias Pettersson, taken fifth overall by the Canucks in 2017, won the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year at the NHL’s annual awards ceremony on Wednesday.

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The Swedish centre led Vancouver in scoring last season, posting 28 goals and 38 assists over 71 games.

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Despite Pettersson’s success, the Canucks missed the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, finishing the regular season fifth in the Pacific Division with a 35-36-11 record.

The lacklustre performance brought mounting pressure for the team’s general manager, Jim Benning.

Vancouver has made the playoffs just once since Benning took the reigns in 2014, and the GM has repeatedly come under fire for signing underperforming forwards like Loui Eriksson, Sam Gagner, Tim Schaller and Jay Beagle.

While the former scout has collected some talented young athletes for the Canucks, question marks remain over some of his other selections.

Defenceman Olli Juolevi, taken fifth overall in 2016, has yet to play his first NHL game after suffering a number of injuries, including knee surgery last winter.

Benning will have an opportunity to add to Vancouver’s prospect pool when the draft continues on Saturday. The Canucks have eight more picks, starting with the 40th selection.

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