Opponent preview: 2017/18 Edinburgh Capitals
The Genting Casino Coventry Blaze welcome the Edinburgh Capitals to the Skydome Arena for the first time this season on Wednesday night (7.30pm). The summer saw much change at the Scottish club with a new Head Coach and host of new players. Blaze TV's Ed Kimberley picks out the one's to look out for:
The Edinburgh Capitals may be descendants of the Murrayfield Racers, they may play out of the same rink and they may share the rich heritage of hockey in Scotland but it has been a long time since glory came to the Scottish Capital. During summer, the Caps underwent a massive overhaul to try and rectify that fact. They parted ways with Michal Dobron and hired ex-NHLer Dimitri Khristich to lead the charge. The Ukrainian may not have had a Head Coaching position until this season, but has worked in the KHL and in international hockey prior to joining the Capitals. New coaches to the EIHL can struggle with recruitment, so to counter this, Khristich employed some help in fellow former NHLers Darius Kasparaitis and Andrei Nikolishin in advisory roles.
Masked Man from Moskva
In net for the Caps this season will be Pavel Shegalo. Shegalo is one of 6 Russians on the roster and is one of the youngest number 1 netminders in the EIHL at 24 years old. At 6’2" he is a tall goalie who despite having been registered with KHL side Sibir Novosibirsk, has spent the last 3 seasons in the Belarusian league. Although Edinburgh are bottom of the EIHL, Shegalo has out-performed some of the more experienced netminders around him with a 3.87 GAA, 89.1% save-percentage. His time with the Capitals thus far may have been turbulent but expect Shegalo to learn quickly what life is like as an Elite League number 1 goalie. He has good pedigree having represented Russia at the under-18 level, winning a bronze title at the World Junior Championships.
Wearing the C for Khristich’s side is one of the few returning imports from last season Mike D’Orazio. The 27 year-old had a solid junior career. He was a 1st round, 8th overall pick in the OHL Priority Draft to Owen Sound and would dive straight into the line-up the next season with the Attack. He would spend 3 seasons with Owen Sound, wearing an A for 2 of them, before joining OHL powerhouses London Knights. He had an immediate impact in London also, being given the ‘C’ in his second year. He was however traded to Mississauga at the trade deadline for 3x 2nd round picks. After Junior, D’Orazio went straight to college, playing in the USports league at St Marys. He would wear an ‘A’ there too and graduated an All-Star, an All-Canadian and a Gold Medalist. He is an ideal choice for Captain and will provide vital two-way qualities at the back.
Cazzola the Catalyst
The Capitals made a huge signing early in the summer in the form of 26-year-old Mike Cazzola. A pint-sized skilled Canadian forward, he joined on a 2-year contract. Having a strong junior career with Erie, Cazzolo's best season came in 2009/10 where he came 2nd on the Otters in scoring with 36 goals, 50 assists, out-scoring current Pittsburgh Penguin Gregg McKegg. He would go on to play in College, like his Captain D’Orazio also joining Acadia. He had All-Star appearances in all 4 seasons and also won a Universiade Gold Medal. On turning pro, the Guelph native played in the ECHL with Fort Wayne where he had an outstanding 30 goals, 46 assists and led the ECHL in points for a rookie. He also earned himself a 3 game call up with Binghampton in the AHL. So far, he's been a dynamo for the Caps offence too, scoring well over a point-a-game in the Cup and the League.
Tvrning on the Scoring
Marek Tvrdon will be a big part of the Capitals this season, like Cazzola, already going over a point-per-game. He is a 6’2", 210lb Slovakian winger who was a 4th round draft pick to Detroit. Following strong junior seasons in his home-country, he would ply his trade over the pond with the prestigious Vancouver Giants. Having 2 seasons cut short by injury, his only full season with the Giants was a big one. He finished second on the team in scoring, only behind Brendan Gallagher who would go on to beat Adam Courchaine's Vancouver scoring record.
The Kazakh who scored THAT goal
It would be a miss to end the preview without mentioning Sergei Banashkov. A 31-year-old who has posted significant points in Kazakhstan throughout his career, spening last season in Russia where he registered 17 points in 47 VHL league and playoff games. With 7 goals, 4 assists in the 12 EIHL league and Challenge Cup games played so far, with talent as shown in the video below - Kevin Nastiuk will need to remain well aware of the Caps' #17 on Wednesday night.