Lightning 2006 first round draft pick Riku Helenius was selected by the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds in the first round of the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft today. Helenius, a 6-3 goaltender who missed practically all of last season with Ilves Jr. in Finland because of a shoulder injury, was taken with the 46th overall pick.
â€œWe spoke to Tampa Bay a year ago about adding Helenius to our team but the player was not ready to come at that time,â€ Seattle General Manager Russ Farwell said in a story on the Thunderbirdsâ€™ web site.
â€œThere is a good chance this year he could come over and we felt we would take that chance because this combination would give us the best 1-2 goalie combination in our division.â€
The 2007 NHL Entry Draft taking place Friday and Saturday aren't the only drafts taking place in the next week. Next Wednesday, June 27th, the CHL will hold their 2007 Import Draft which takes on added importance as rumors persist that 2006 1st round pick Riku Helenius might cross the pond to play Canadian junior hockey next season.
The signing comes as a surprising and unexpected move by Tampa as Helenius missed most of last season with a shoulder injury. It has been speculated that Helenius may be coming to North America this fall to play in Canadian juniors, and that signing him a year early will mitigate signing risks next summer in the event he has a breakout season.
Here's what we learned this week in communication with the Lightning:
2006 first round draft pick Riku Helenius made a successful return from major shoulder surgery when he suited up for Finland at an Under-19 tournament in St. Petersburg, Russia last month. The Lightning was in attendance when the goaltender played his first game since early autumn, but Finland was on their heels all night and Russia scored two power play goals to beat Helenius and Finland 4-0. Finland didn't fare much better in Helenius' second game, a 5-1 loss to Sweden.
While the GAA may not look ideal for the first rounder, the Lightning said he played well. The important thing to look at here is he's playing again and is in good health. In fact, after missing nearly all the 2006-2007 season, a healthy Helenius is now working out twice a day.
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