TWO years ago, Craig Weller was playing NHL hockey with the likes of Éric Bélanger and Mikko Koivu.
Now, after 95 games in the world’s greatest league, he plies his trade with Elite League Cardiff Devils.
And if he plays this weekend like he did the last time he iced against Sheffield Steelers, the South Yorkshire outfit’s hopes of lifting the championship could be severely hindered.
The 29-year-old Canadian orchestrated a sensational 7-1 win at Sheffield Arena on January 12, scoring one and making two others.
His masterly technique that night remains on the minds of Steelers’ players, who will be determined to contain him and his team-mates as the two league heavyweights battle for supremacy in the back to back games (home, Sunday, 5pm).
Mark Thomas is open enough to rate his opponent: “One of the best players in the league.”
The Sheffield defenceman acknowledges: “The last time, he ran the whole game.
“We will have to key on him this weekend.
“By that, I don’t mean man marking, more making sure we finish our hits off and take him out the play, so he can’t jump up and beat you up the ice.
“Ben Simon (coach) is very thorough. He always points out the other team’s top guys, how their power play works. He’s very thorough and I’m sure he’ll talk about Weller.
“They also have danger men in Scott Matzka and Jon Pelle and are good on the power play.”
Thomas’ teammate, Joey Talbot, says Pelle, in particular, is a highly skilled foe.
“He has had a great year and he is the type to make you pay unless you are on your game,” he said. “We have to deny players like him time and space on the puck.”
Asked about the importance of this Cardiff series, he said: “If other teams start falling away, it will become a matter of one of us winning the league - and that could be decided by how this weekend goes.”
n Devils will be keen to do well after the disappointment of last Wednesday, when they went out of the Challenge in a 5-2 aggregate semi-final defeat to Belfast Giants.