Sheffield Steelers young starlets have proved our apprentice scheme works
The kids have answered their first pressure test haven't they?
Youngsters Liam Kirk and Cole Shudra have been the talk of the town, recently.
Liam has always been “The One Who Might Make it Big;” he has been touted since he was knee high.
The best kid coming through the juniors, the best kid in the Steeldogs so the progression to the Steelers was always expected.
Now he is of draftable age the talk is whether an NHL club will take a punt, this kid from the UK, it has a quirky feel and that too attracts some interest.
Kirk isn’t another Swedish kid with talent, or another Latvian making a mark. He is a lad from England and that always turns a few heads.
Liam has come on leaps and bounds these past two months, he is maturing physically and mentally. There has never been a question about his skill set or speed.
In the juniors those skills got him through, he could do what he liked because he was the best. Now in the Steelers he wasn’t the best and had to learn the game.
What to do when he wasn’t on the puck.
He has learnt quickly and become physically stronger and confident. We are seeing the next stage of his development. His goal in Milton Keynes on Saturday was of the highest order and it was followed by another on Sunday in the beating of Belfast.
The guy who passed him the puck for that goal on Sunday was Shudra.
A week earlier he made his Elite League breakthrough with a hat trick in Edinburgh, his first goals for the Steelers.
Like Kirk, Shudra had to learn the professional game. Again as a junior he was always a step ahead. A chip off the old block. The coaching staff didn’t think he had the foot speed for a forward. They worked on that and also tried him on the back-end. A British player who can play both positions would have a long and fruitful career.
Things don’t happen over night but in the past few weeks Shudra has had his chance to show that he is getting it. I speak to the coach several times a day and I keep hearing Cole’s name in the conversation after training and games.
With the suspension and injuries both young lads had the chance to give the coach a headache. They would get more ice time, more responsibility. How would they react?
The answer is they handled it superbly well, not just scoring but also competing and winning battles. An integral part of the team.
Liam had the added pressure of everyone talking about the draft. NHL scouts have watched him play week in and week out. He didn’t shy away and hide, far from it. He stood tall and said: “This is me, like what you see”
Cole has never hid behind his Dad’s name He loves his old man, he and I speak about our times together and old stories lots. He is as proud of his Dad as we all are of our own. Sometimes though I think he wishes his name was Cole Brown, or Jones or Smith!
He should be proud of his name, his family and his own achievements.
He isn’t wearing a Steelers uniform because of his name, he is wearing it because our coaches like him as a player. They think they can develop him and make him a Steeler.
As the suspended and injured bodies return it will be interesting what role they both have in the final stretch of the season. It will diminish I’m sure.
But they have both done enough to know our apprenticeship programme works. We also have young Kieran Brown knocking on the door and the team is super excited about him.
If Liam jumps gives North America a crack then good luck to him. Steelers won’t have missed out, they’ll have sent a message to all good youngsters that this is the club to come to.
The one that will give you a shot. Over a period of say 5-10 years we will reap the benefit, we will see the youngsters come through with many becoming Steelers of the futures. I can’t wait for those days.