Exclusive: Top prospect Alex Graham signs full time for Sheffield Steelers

Brendan Connolly hands over responsibilities to Alex GrahamBrendan Connolly hands over responsibilities to Alex Graham
Brendan Connolly hands over responsibilities to Alex Graham
There are few things Sheffield Steelers' supporters warm to more than "one of their own" skating out on to the Arena ice pad.

Today, the fans can rejoice in the fact that young Dronfield skater Alex Graham will be doing exactly that, for a full season, for the first time.

Sheffield have signed him up on a single-year deal not just for his obvious potential - but to deter any other Elite club from getting their hands on him.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Graham said: "I am delighted to have signed full time, it is great to be playing for the team I grew up watching.

Alex Graham at CardiffAlex Graham at Cardiff
Alex Graham at Cardiff

"It is massive for me, a great feeling."

Coach Aaron Fox believes the 20-year-old can go on to be a big part of the future.

His contribution to the Steelers' cause last season came in 22 EIHL games; he spent the rest of the campaign developing at NIHL club Sheffield Steeldogs, where he scored a massive 40 goals and 40 assists in 36 league games.

With 20-strong top-flight EIHL teams now restricted to a maximum number of 15 non-homegrown players, that leaves room for just five Brits on match night.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Alex Graham Steeldogs pic courtesy of Peter Best Photography with Jason Hewitt rightAlex Graham Steeldogs pic courtesy of Peter Best Photography with Jason Hewitt right
Alex Graham Steeldogs pic courtesy of Peter Best Photography with Jason Hewitt right

Graham's signature means he will join Sam Jones, Robert Dowd, Brandon Whistle and a back-up netminder.

It also explains how Fox's hands were tied over Davey Phillips' future - the veteran defenceman has now signed for Belfast Giants.

Today, Fox welcome Graham fully into the system telling The Star: "He led the NIHL, last year in points per game, is 20 years old, 6ft 3ins tall, and is getting better each year.

"We could not continue to send a player like that down to the NIHL where we would risk losing him short term and probably long term.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Multiple teams reached out about his availability for next year.

"But we did a deal with him three or four weeks ago to make him a full time player with us.

"He has earned it and is part of the future for us."

There will be no gradual introduction into full-time EIHL responsibilities, said Fox.

"At this point, he is not on a two-way deal any more, there is no more integrating, he comes in and plays regular shifts.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"He is fully focused and has been in the gym for three weeks, doing one-on-one training with the (strength and conditioning) coach, and his skills level and size will take over next year."

Fox said he hoped it was part of a journey that would eventually see him a "top six player in this league for a long long time.

"He put up five points in 15 (league) games for us as well as leading the scoring in the NIHL.

"He is a player who, if used the right way, can score 10 goals for us next year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Even at the worst-case scenario, he'll throw his body around and be a reliable player for us. We have no doubts about his value to us."

Graham's recruitment comes at a good time - Steelers have had to bid farewell to players like Jonathan Phillips, Brendan Connolly, and Mason Mitchell.