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Friday, May 31
Updated: June 1, 10:21 AM ET
Vancouver signs 2000 draft pick, could lose another

Associated Press

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Vancouver Canucks avoided losing 2000 first-round draft choice Nathan Smith by signing the 20-year-old center to his first professional contract Friday, a day before they would have lost the rights to him.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

If Smith, who was Vancouver's first choice, the 23rd overall, in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, didn't sign before Saturday, he would have re-entered the player pool for the draft this summer.

``He's a guy who can put up good numbers offensively, but he's responsible in his own end and he's got some grit to his game,'' said Dave Nonis, Vancouver's senior director of hockey operations. ``We think he'll fit in well with us and we think he can develop into a pretty good NHL player.''

Smith played 47 games with Swift Current of the Western Hockey League last season, recording 22 goals, 38 assists and 52 penalty minutes. In 231 regular-season games over four seasons with Swift Current, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound native of Alberta had 76 goals, 136 assists and 228 penalty minutes.

The Canucks have not, however, been able to come to terms with Nathan Barrett, another choice from the 2000 draft.

Barrett wasn't picked until the sixth round, 241st overall, but led all WHL scorers with 99 points last season.

Nonis didn't think a deal could be reached before the deadline Saturday, at which time the 21-year-old center would become an unrestricted free agent.

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