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Gig Harbor’s Mekei Sanders, who started his hockey career in Bremerton, signed with the Seattle Thunderbirds Tuesday of the Western Hockey League.

Sanders, who skated and played at the Bremerton Ice Center until age nine before moving on to Sno-King Hockey Association and Seattle Junior Hockey Association, was selected by the Thunderbirds in the ninth round, 186th overall, at the 2018 Bantam Draft in Red Deer, Alberta, on May 3.

“Mekai is a very exciting player and we know we are very lucky to have been able to add him late in the draft like we did,” said Thunderbirds vice president of hockey operations Russ Farwell in a press release. “This is the first local player with the potential to develop into one of our top players we have had since moving to Kent. All of our hockey staff were impressed with him and this is a big day for us as we build our team for the future.”

Last season Sanders had six goals an 12 assists for 18 points in 20 games for the Detroit Compuware 14U team. Sanders also took part in the team’s annual spring camp in Edmonton, June 1-3.

“It feels amazing to sign with the Thunderbirds. I remember going to games when I was a kid and telling my parents I want to be like the players when I grow up,” said Sanders. “Knowing what I’ve worked for has finally come and I get to play for the team that I always watched as a kid, it’s pretty awesome.”

By signing a player agreement in the WHL, Sanders is guaranteed a WHL Scholarship for each year he plays in the league. A player is able to attend any college, university, technical institute, trade school or other institution which will help the player achieve his academic and career goals, the release said. The scholarship includes tuition, fees and textbooks.

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