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Thunderbirds tap Russian forward in the CHL Import Draft

The Seattle Thunderbirds added to their roster Wednesday morning when they selected Russian forward Nikita Malukhin during the first round of the CHL Import Draft.

Seattle took Malukhin — who is entering his 17-year-old season — with the 50th pick and have to be enamored with his size. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds the forward played 28 games last season with Russian team Kazan Irbis where he scored four times while adding two assists. He becomes the eighth Russian-born player selected by the Thunderbirds in the Import Draft and the first since Alex Delnov was taken in 2012.

There is always a bit of uncertainty in the Import Draft about whether a player will report but the team tweeted comments from general manager Russ Farwell that indicated Malukhin is excited to join the Thunderbirds and play in the WHL.

By taking a younger player, the T-Birds could be looking at three seasons of Malukhin, should he pan out.

The selection, of course, makes it official that Alexander True will not be returning to Seattle. The Danish import would be entering his 20-year-old season and with Seattle limited to only carrying three over-aged players, didn’t have room for True. Sami Moilanen will be Seattle’s second import player on the roster this coming season.

True spent three seasons with Seattle and while he potted 45 goals, it’s the last one he scored that will solidify him forever in Thunderbird lore. It was True’s overtime marker in Game 6 of the WHL Championship that gave Seattle its first ever league title. True’s younger brother, Oliver, was selected in Wednesday’s draft by the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL.

Barring any summer trades, the selection of Malukhin will be the last major roster addition made by the club before training camp in August.