Ex NHL forward arrives at Sheffield Steelers as Czech centre moves on

Sheffield Steelers have sent out a signal of title-winning intent with the signing of former NHL forward Justin Hodgman, announced today.

Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 6:00 am

The extensively-travelled Hodgman comes into the side for the upcoming season as Czech centreman Josef Mikyska moves on elsewhere.

It will be a case of second-time lucky for the 33-year-old Canadian new boy.

He had initially signed a deal for the 2020-21 season at Sheffield Arena, but Covid 19 put paid to a full EIHL season so he went to Hungary instead .

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In the replacement UK mini-tournament, Mikyska was an impressive centre, but he is being offered a heftier salary elsewhere.

Hodgman is an exciting, first new arrival in the class of 2021-22.

He is routinely a supplier of bullets - he loves providing goal-scoring opportunities for others.

Interestingly, the 33 year old played five games for Arizona Coyotes in 2014-15, the NHL club that has recently awarded an entry level contract to Maltby's Liam Kirk.

In his first NHL game, Hodgman scored against the Florida Panthers.

The Canadian arrives from a successful spell at Ferencvárosi TC in Budapest, his most recent club after a dizzying number of moves.

Hodgman has played in all of the top leagues in Europe: playing 112 games in the Russian KHL, (2012-2014, 24 goals and 39 assists and +15 in the plus-minus statistics) as well as appearances in the

Swedish SHL, Finnish Liiga, German DEL and the Czech top division.

Justin Hodgman; picture courtesy of Sheffield Steelers
Justin Hodgman; picture courtesy of Sheffield Steelers

So how does the 6ft 2ins skater describe his own style?

“I’m a playmaker, I like setting the boys up to score," he said.

"Sure I will chip in myself and who doesn’t love to score? But overall I love to create and make things happen.

“I know what I bring, but until the whole team is together in camp you never know what your required role will be. I know I have to produce every night and contribute towards winning.

Josef Mikyska face off pic Dean Woolley

"I hope I bring leadership as well. I have great experience in playing all over the world in a bunch of leagues, I’ve seen it all, so, I hope to add to the great leadership already returning to the team’s roster.

"There is an expectation to win in Sheffield and I like that. I want to win a Championship.”

Hodgman said he had initially agreed terms with Steelers' coach Aaron Fox for last year.

“Aaron was totally upfront with me though and when the League didn’t look like it was to go ahead he gave me the heads up to move elsewhere.”

Fox thinks it will have been worth the wait.

“Justin is a pure centre who will bring a ton of high-level experience with him” said Fox

Aaron Fox.

“He’s a big body who plays a complete 200-foot game and skates well for his size.

“He’s a pass first player who should give us a new dimension to our forward group and is excellent on the power play. He’s very excited to get in and compete for trophies.”

That's the key - filling the Sheffield roster with people who have already won trophies or are judged to be more than capable of doing so, going forward.

Hodgman finished last season as a Hungarian champion (scoring 46 points in 41 games) and has been a three-times IHL Turner Cup winner.

He is the youngest player in IHL history to win the Turner Cup playoff MVP award (19 years old.)

Steelers ended up beaten finalists in the mini series play offs and while they won the Challenge Cup in the previous season, they trailed Cardiff Devils in the regular EIHL division.

The signing of Hodgman could be a stepping stone to going one better.

As for Mikyska, Steelers know the 26-year-old has been offered considerably more money than they can compete with, possibly by teams in the Czech Republic or Slovakia.

"He has some offers that are considerably more than we can pay, at the moment" said Fox.

"I'm not sure if he is taking any of them or not, but I know he was out of our price range."