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by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning

Former Lightning first-round pick Riku Helenius was selected by the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League in the first-round, 46th overall, at the 2007 CHL Import Draft on Wednesday. He was signed by Tampa Bay on May 31 and is expected to make his North American debut with Seattle in 2007-08.

Helenius, a 6-foot-3, 202-pound native of Palkane, Finland, missed the majority of the 2006-07 season for Ilves Tampere of the Finnish SM-Liiga after suffering a shoulder injury. Helenius recorded a 2.68 goal-against average and a .919 save percentage in 26 games with Ilves Tampere Junior during the 2005-06 season. He was the top-rated Finnish goaltender in the draft by NHL Central Scouting and was ranked as the top European goaltender in the draft by the Hockey News when the Lightning selected him in the first round, 15th overall, at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver.

Helenius played in six games at the 2006 World U-18 Championships and posted 4-1-1 record with a 1.83 goals-against average, a .942 save percentage and one shutout. He was awarded the Directorate Award at the tournament as the top goaltender and had a 34-save shutout against Team Canada.

Helenius began his career with Ilves Jr. in the 2002-03 season. He made his debut in Finland’s top professional league in 2005-06, appearing in five games for Ilves Tampere.
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