EIHL 2014-15 Season: Who I’m Keeping An Eye Out For

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As with every season, there have been some big moves, some players to welcome back, and some new faces to learn.  I know we’ll each be looking for different things, and there are likely a few last-minute signings still to go, but these are the people (mostly the fresh faces) I’ll be watching out for.

Belfast Giants

Last season’s league champions will likely remain the team to beat.  Their defensive core is intact from last season and will no doubt prove effective at both ends of the ice, especially if Robby Sandrock and Chris Effings‘ points scoring averages are maintained.  They’re worth keeping an eye on.

While there are likely some more signings to add to the forwards still, the Giants have picked up some NHL draftees, both new to the EIHL.  Mark McCutcheon is a 2003 Colorado Avalanche draft pick, and is coming to the EIHL from a four year stint in Europe and with AHL pedigree.  Ray Sawada is a Dallas Stars second rounder, and had a long stint with the Stars’ NHL and AHL teams.  Also worth watching is Mike Kompon, who should bring good puck distribution.

Braehead Clan

The Clan have seen a lot of movement during the off-season, notably Joel Champagne to French team Amiens.  But the team look to have successfully replaced Champagne with former Sheffield Steeler Stefan Meyer, who I can assure you Sheffield fans were sad to see leave!

The Clan have also picked up AHL defenseman Zack Fitzgerald, who while unlikely to put up many points for the team is certainly likely to generate penalty minutes as a tough enforcer.  Forward Matt Keith, who has been part of the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Islanders organisations, will be someone I’ll be looking at with interest to see what he can bring to the league.

Cardiff Devils

After the controversy of last season, Cardiff will be looking to put all that behind them.  Signing Team GB’s goaltender Ben Bowns from Hull Stingrays was a good step forward.  Two forwards are joining from ECHL team Gwinnett Gladiators, Joey Haddad and Chris Culligan.  The Gladiators being- the former team of last season’s top points scorer Ryan Ginand.

The most promising stats come from right-winger Brent Walton, coming into the league from a seven season stint in Europe.

Coventry Blaze

While there’s no sign at present of last season’s top scorer and EIHL Forward of the Year Ryan Ginand signing with a team, there’s still a lot to get excited about in the Blaze line-up.  From a Sheffield Steelers fan’s prospective, our loss was the Blaze’s gain, with the signing of Steelers captain Steve GoertzenAshley Tait shows no sign of slowing down, extending his contract with the team.  And signings of forward Jereme Tendler (Hull), and of defensemen Rory Rawlyk (Dundee) and Mark Smith (Cardiff) add league experience.

Ryan O’Marra debuts in the EIHL this season, the former New York Islanders first round draft pick will likely be looking to make the impact up front that he hasn’t perhaps shown in other leagues.

Dundee Stars

After a few late signings, the Dundee team has really taken shape.  They’ve snagged Shane Lust from Braehead, Chris Blight from Sheffield, Matt Ryan from Nottingham, Ziga Svete from Cardiff and Martin Congel from Edinburgh.  All of these should make an impact on the team.

Among the imports new to the EIHL are winger Igor Gongalsky and forward Rob Ricci.  Ricci, especially, looks like he’ll be able to find the net.  Perhaps the biggest signing though is Jade Galbraith, who, after a season in Holland is back in the EIHL.  Galbraith put up some big numbers for both the Panthers and the Clan, and there’s no reason why he can’t do that again.

Edinburgh Capitals

The Caps have got some roster slots to fill before the season starts, but they have gone for some impact in terms of 6’4″ Slovakian defenseman Lukas Bohunicky.  Look for Bohunicky to be a very physical player.  The Caps also see Rene Jarolin back with the team this season after a year in Slovakia, and will no doubt hope that he can pick up where he left off.

Greg Collins is coming into the EIHL with some very good figures in Holland, and if he can keep to two points per game average then he’ll make a big impact.

Fife Flyers

While the Flyers don’t have a lot of new players signed, they have retained a lot of last season’s team, including the team’s top scorers, Jordan Fulton and Bobby Chaumont.

At time of writing, the two new signings are ECHL Fort Wayne Komets teammates Chris Auger and Scott Fleming.  Auger is a Chicago Blackhawks draftee, who has spent the last three seasons putting up useful numbers as a centre for the Komets.  Fleming only spent a part season with the Komets coming in after a year out of hockey, but if the chemistry is there with Auger, the two will likely be worth a look.

Hull Stingrays

Perhaps the biggest news for Stingrays’ fans is the return of former captain Kurtis Dulle.  Dulle is back after a year out.  Although now 34, Dulle is likely to be welcomed back amid the Stingrays defence.  On the negative side, the Stingrays have lost their top two scorers from last season – Guillaume Doucet to Denmark, and Jereme Tendler to the Blaze.

There’s no readily identifiable leading scorer among the new players, but Hull have brought back Dominic Osman after a year away.  They’ve also signed two young forwards from the CIS – Cory Tanaka and Eric Galbraith, who may be worth watching to see if they can bring the numbers.

Nottingham Panthers

It’s not easy to determine what the Panthers final line-up will be once the season starts, mostly due to a flurry of signings ahead of the Champions Hockey games.

I’m expecting dual-passport holder Evan Mosey to stick around.  He put up some impressive points for a defenseman last season in Holland, and if he can maintain that he’ll be a big plus.  I’d also like to see something of another useful scoring defenseman in Edmonton Oilers draftee Cody Wild.  Wild has put in some time with the Pittsburgh Penguins farm teams Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Wheeling Nailers, so has some pedigree.

Sheffield Steelers

There’s been a lot of movement in the Steelers roster, notably the loss of captain Steve Goertzen to Coventry and leading scorer Stefan Meyer to Braehead.  There have been some good signings however, the biggest news for Steelers fans being the return of Rod Sarich after a year away.  Another signing bringing a lot of experience is Darrell Hay, who has some good numbers for a defenseman.

Among the forwards new to the EIHL are two very useful looking left wingers.  Mathieu Roy is bringing in good numbers and a long stint in the ECHL.  I’m also looking forward to seeing what Mike Forney can bring to the team too.

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