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Seattle nabs high-end NHL prospect Tim Stutzle in CHL Import Draft

Andrej Kukuca's (pictured) future with the Thunderbirds could be in doubt if new import signs with the club.(Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

KENT – With the 19th pick in the CHL Import Draft Thursday, the Seattle Thunderbirds selected German center Tim Stutzle.

Stutzle is the second player that Seattle has selected from Germany and the first since Marcel Noebels in 2010. He is a 2002-born player, listed at 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds who played last season for Jungadler Mannheim U20 and in 21 games scored 23 goals, 32 assists for 55 points.

He’ll be eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft and Future Considerations has him ranked as the sixth best prospect. Stutzle has signed on to play professionally in Germany for Mannheim which brings into question whether he is willing to come play in North America.

“We think that he’s a high-end offensive player,” Thunderbirds general manager Bil La Forge said. “He fits really well into our age group and he’s got a chance to be a high NHL pick going forward. We’re excited about him, we know he has options, he’s signed to play in the DEL next year. We’ll address that as we go.”

The DEL is a pro league in Germany and Stutzle would have an opportunity to play with players much older. Mannheim recently signed Moritz Seider, who was selected sixth overall by the Detroit Red Wings in last weekend’s NHL Draft.

Stutzle will now weigh his options and the Thunderbirds will begin to recruit him.

“I think he’s open to it,” La Forge said about the chances Stutzle comes over. “I wouldn’t say it’s a slam dunk, we knew that going in. We’re fortunate enough to have a great insurance policy in place. There’s a good chance he starts the year in the DEL.”

The insurance policy is that the Thunderbirds currently have two imports – Andrej Kukuca and Simon Kubicek – that they like. That allowed them to take a chance on a high-end pick without much risk if he chooses not to sign.

“We knew we weren’t going to bring someone over just to play in our bottom six,” La Forge added. “If we bring someone over, they’re going to be a big-time talent and that’s what we acquired today.”

Kubicek was selected in the second round of last June’s draft and turned in an impressive rookie season. The Czech defenseman, who is entering his NHL Draft year, played in all but one of Seattle’s 62 games last year. He was physical and came with a big slap shot that led to nine goals and 28 assists.

Along with Kubicek, Seattle drafted Kukuca from Slovakia last year. Chosen in the first round, Kukuca potted 25 goals with 57 points in 59 games last year. He played for Slovakia in the World Junior Championships in Vancouver and when he returned in January, caught fire for Seattle. In his final 30 regular season games, Kukuca scored 18 of his 25 goals and 33 of his points.

Kukuca will be 20-years-old in the coming season which means he would not only take one of Seattle’s two allowed import slots, but also one of its three over-age spots.

“The plan is to recruit and see what we can do and then if we come up with a problem it will be a great problem to have and we’ll figure it out then,” La Forge said.

Other Thunderbirds notes:

• The WHL released its 2018-2019 schedule on Wednesday. Seattle will open the season at home against the Kamloops Blazers on September 27th at the accesso ShoWare Center.

• Seattle defenseman Tyrel Bauer has been invited to Hockey Canada’s U18 camp for the upcoming Hlinka-Gretzky tournament. The team, and subsequent tournament, is the annual kick off to the NHL prospect season. Team Canada’s entry into the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament is usually stocked with players who go on to be selected in the following summer’s NHL Draft.

• Conner Roulette, who will be starting his rookie season with Seattle in the fall, has been named team captain of the Canadian U17 entry into the Ball Hockey World Cup in Prauge. The tournament is under way and Roulette has a goal for Team Canada in the opening game.