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T-Birds notebook: Stutzle watch, Bauer cut by Canada, and new scouts

Seattle Thunderbirds defenseman Tyrel Bauer was cut by Team Canada last week but should be an NHL Draft prospect this year. (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

The Thunderbirds’ selection in the CHL Import Draft, German center Tim Stutzle, has yet to sign with Seattle but will hit the ice in a couple of weeks.

Stutzle, 17, has signed a pro contract with Alder Manheim of the German DEL and how much playing time he gets may factor into whether he decides to come and play in the WHL. Manheim kicks off its exhibition schedule on August 15th with a game against Biel. The regular season for Manheim starts on August 30th against the Vienna Capitals.

The good news for the Thunderbirds is that Stutzle will have plenty opportunity to decide if staying in Germany is best for his development and NHL Draft prospects or if more ice time in the WHL with Seattle is the better route.

Seattle’s training camp starts on August 20th and its WHL regular season doesn’t start until September 21st when the Thunderbirds host the Kamloops Blazers. By that time, Manheim will have played seven regular season games and five exhibition contests.

Stutzle most likely won’t be in training camp with the Thunderbirds but the door for him coming over is still ajar. Seattle will move forward with imports Andrej Kukuca and Simon Kubicek but the Thunderbirds have been in contact with Stutzle to try to recruit him by selling the benefits of playing WHL hockey.

If Stutzle does decide to come to North America, Seattle will have to move one of Kukuca or Kubicek as WHL rules allow for two imports on the roster.

He is considered to be first-round NHL talent and ESPN’s Chris Peters had Stutzle ranked 15th in his first 2020 rankings.

“Stutzle played mostly in obscurity last season with Adler Mannheim’s junior team,” Peters said. “Stutzle put up big numbers — 55 points in 21 games — in Germany’s junior ranks but also shined brightly on the international stage in helping Germany earn promotion to the top-level of the U18 World Championship next year. The vision and shot are both high-end.”

The path for Stutzle has been an evolving one. He originally was slated to play this season in the USHL for Sioux City before going the NCAA hockey route with New Hampshire. After his strong season last year for Manheim’s junior club, the big club signed him, and his plans changed.

Is another change of direction in store?

Here is the latest news surrounding the Thunderbirds.

Tyrel Bauer cut from Team Canada’s Hlinka-Gretzky team

The Hlinka-Gretzky tournament got underway this week in Slovakia and the Czech Republic but Seattle’s Bauer is not there.

Bauer, 17, was in camp with Canada but the Thunderbirds blue liner was one of the final cuts. The camp and tournament are the unofficial kick off of the 2020 NHL Draft prospect season. Being in camp is a feather in Bauer’s cap, and he is expected to get draft attention and should be selected in next June’s draft.

As a rookie last season, the 6-foot-3 defenseman appeared in 64 games and scored two goals along with 12 assists.

Thunderbirds shake up training camp routine

In a recent episode of the team’s video news series Top Shelf, Seattle general manager Bil La Forge talked about some changes to the way the team conducts its training camp.

In year’s past, the first two days of camp were highlighted by scrimmages featuring the recent draft pick and rookies, with the veterans joining the mix later in the week. This year’s camp will be different.

There will be no more rookie scrimmages. Starting on August 20th, all the scrimmages will include 2019 draft picks, rookies, and the veteran players.

The team will release the full schedule and scrimmage times closer to the start of camp but all sessions will be open the public and free of charge.

Seattle adds three scouts

La Forge has brought in three new scouts to help scour Western Canada for future Thunderbirds. The team announced last week that Jag Bal, Zach Habscheid, and Kevin Williams are now part of Seattle’s scouting team.

Bal will be scouting in British Columbia and comes to the Thunderbirds after working with La Forge with the Everett Silvertips. He also served six seasons as a referee in the WHL, BCHL, and CIS.

Habscheid joins the scouting team and will be working in Saskatchewan. He played three seasons as a defenseman in the WHL for the Chilliwack Bruins and Victoria Royals between 2009 and 2012. Joining Bal in British Columbia is Williams, who as spent the past five years as an independent scout for the online service, Draft Geek.

Along with the additions, the Thunderbirds also lost one scout. Leland Mack, who had been a British Columbia scout for Seattle, took a job with the Prince George Cougars. Mack, who also is a coach with the Burnaby Winter Club, where players like Mathew Barzal got their start, was announced last week as the Cougars new Head Pacific Region Scout.