Elite Series Preview
With the Elite Series starting this weekend, Blaze media team member Chris Pryke takes a quick look at the four teams taking part.
Blaze head coach Danny Stewart has put together a young roster for the series, with only three of the 23 players aged 30 or over.
With the games coming thick and fast, giving opportunities to younger players who are keen to have an impact and showcase their skills to the rest of the league should help maintain energy levels on the ice.
The flipside to this youth movement, is a relative lack of elite level experience, but the Blaze will be hoping the young British players that they drafted will thrive with the added responsibility they will be given over the next five weeks.
While the roster is light on offensive defencemen, the return of Nicolai Bryhnisveen will be a significant boost and Stewart has made it clear he wants to give special teams opportunities to players like David Clements which will hopefully benefit the team in the long-term.
With the time of Luke Ferrara’s arrival uncertain due to Krakow’s ongoing involvement in the play-offs in Poland, Blaze fans will be hoping first year pro's Nick Jermain and Tristan Keck can adapt quickly and Simen Andre Edvardsen can bring his hot goal-scoring form from Norway to the UK.
Two to watch:
Max Krogdahl: The highly rated 22-year-old Norwegian defenceman will play a key-role at the heart of the Blaze defensive core.
Ivan Antonov: Heralded as possibly the steal of the draft, Antonov has been a productive point-scorer at lower levels and will be looking to make an imact at the Elite level.
The Storm picked up some experienced Elite League veterans in the draft, including former Blaze favourite Ben Lake with the second overall pick, to complement a solid core of protected players which included former Storm favourite Ciaran Long.
They’ve also returned some familiar faces among their import signings, in Tyler Fawcett, Cam Critchlow and Scott Simmonds, and this familiarity should help the team gel in the short time before the games start.
The short series means back-up netminders are likely to see more action than they would in a normal season, so the signing of Belfast and GB veteran Stephen Murphy to back up import goalie Sean Bonar could prove to be an astute pick-up by Ryan Finnerty.
The Storm roster contains around half a dozen players who will be hoping to earn a spot in GB coach Pete Russell’s squad for the World Championships in Latvia. This should help keep the competition for time on the ice intense, while the younger Brits, like recently added forward Harry Gulliver, will be looking to make the most of their chances to showcase their ability.
Two to watch:
Andreas Klavestad: The Norwegian international defenceman brings a wealth of top-level hockey experience to the team.
Joseph Hazeldine: Signed on a multi-year deal from the Nottingham Panthers, he will be keen to start well for his new team and also catch the eye of GB coach Pete Russell.
Much of the talk around the Panthers has focused on the fact they traded for the first overall pick in the draft to select GB’s number one netminder Ben Bowns, despite having national team back-up goalie Jackson Whistle as one of their protected players.
While the situation might not be ideal from a GB perspective in terms of preparation for the World Championships in Latvia, it could prove to be a shrewd move by the Panthers management as the frequency of the games in the Elite Series means the duo will be able to share the burden between the pipes.
Elsewhere, Panthers fans will be pleased to see the return of Brett Perlini to spearhead the forward line and veteran defenceman Mark Matheson back on the blue line.
New import forward Nick Dineen has averaged almost a point-per-game over four seasons in Norway with Lillehammer, where he was teammates with new defenceman Brendan Ellis who put up impressive offensive numbers.
The draft yielded a number of younger British players with Elite League experience, like Lewis Hook, Craig Garrigan and Owen Griffiths, who will help add depth to the roster.
Two to watch:
Christophe Boivin: The Canadian forward put up impressive numbers in his USports career and will be hoping to carry that output over to the Elite Series.
Liam Stenton: The 19-year-old defenceman will be hoping to build on the Elite League experience he gained with the Glasgow Clan in 2019/20.
The Steelers roster is packed with experience as well as a lot of names that will be familiar to Sheffield fans, with the return of Liam Kirk and Tanner Eberle – as well as veteran fan favourite Jason Hewitt – seeming to be the moves that gave supporters the greatest cause for celebration.
With Jonathan Phillips, David Phillips, Robert Dowd and Brendan Connolly on the team’s protected list, the addition of GB international Matthew Myers in the draft added another vastly experienced international to an impressive roster.
Dowd and Connolly have been playing competitive hockey during the current season and should both be with the team for the opening game.
Head coach Aaron Fox has also signed a number of imports who have been playing in Europe which will be beneficial given the short training camp and the frequency of the games once the series starts.
Key among these signings is vastly experienced netminder John Muse who had been playing in Denmark.
With games coming in quick succession the younger players on the roster are also likely to get significant opportunities, which should give draft picks like defenceman Sam Jones and forward Alex Graham a chance to showcase their talents.
Two to watch:
Sondre Olden: The Norwegian Olympian has played in some of Europe’s top leagues and could be an offensive catalyst.
Ben Churchfield: The highly rated British netminder should get opportunities to showcase his talent in goal during the series.
How to watch the Elite Series?
The Elite Series will be played throughout April, behind closed doors at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham.
Although we aren't able to welcome fans in to the arena at this time, every minute of the action will be available for you to enjoy via: eliteleague.tv.
A number of passes are available to purchase now: