The “flashy” skills and fresh-faced exuberance of new Steelers defenceman Ben O’Connor has rejuvenated training as well as improved Sheffield’s defensive core during actual game-time.
That’s the view of 275-game AHL blue liner Gord Baldwin, who was delighted with the addition of the 25-year-old to the roster, from Kazakhstan’ club Arlan Kokshetau.
“I didn’t know him before but he is obviously very skilled, highly offensive and skates well; we have welcomed him with open arms” said Baldwin.
“He is mature and fitted in with the rest of the team straight away.
“People will notice him because he is flashy and is putting up the points. He plays high level passes and it is nice being around him and around that skill level.
“In practices, it pushes you harder to be more creative and try new things. It is fun watching him.”
Baldwin, 27, assumes O’Connor’s game has improved in the time he spent in Kazakhstan.
“He has probably developed his skills mainly through hard work and natural ability - he’s probably always had it.
“But generally people who play in the Russian and Czech leagues are pegged as offensive, high risk players; may be creative skills are considered more important than structural hockey. It is certainly good to see people being creative in our sport.”
Baldwin hopes to be back from injury to face Belfast Giants tonight and Braehead Clan tomorrow, the division’s pacesetters.
“Four points against these two big teams would be great. We’ve had a very tough schedule and got the same coming up. But these first two are at home and two wins would certainly help us in the standings.
“We are one of four teams who has started the league in very hot form, while those just below us have a lot of talent too.”