From Russia with gloves? Speculation hots up about Sheffield Steelers’ target

Speculation that a Russian forward may be signing for Steelers suggests that new ground is about to be broken.

Thursday, 20th June 2019, 08:08 am
Updated Thursday, 20th June 2019, 13:48 pm
Will John Armstrong get a Russian team mate? Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Steelers have had a lot of players from different backgrounds since they were formed in 1991 - Czechs, Latvians, Finns, Slovakians, for instance - but you'd be lucky to find a Russian who has worn the Sheffield colours.

The rumour mill suggests winger Nikolai Lemtyugov is being offered a ticket to the House of Steel, not that big of a leap given the fact he was at new coch Aaron Fox's old team, Medvescak Zagreb.

He was a team-mate of John Armstrong there.

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Steelers have this week been reluctant to discuss the 33-year-old, amid suggestions he could be hanging on for a better deal in the KHL.

If that is the case, expect nothing to happen until the early part of next month.

And then, and only if the 15-stone skater, who was brought up on the eastern slope of the Southern Ural Mountains, hasn't found a more lucrative deal, he could be another Fox capture.

The KHL clubs won't have to research him - he played 416 games at that level and earlier in his career was a prospect with the Russia U20 programme.

When Zagreb started to have money problems he tried his luck in South Korea, with Anyang Halla, but is now aiming to make his way back into more mainstream hockey.

He is a hard-nosed, well-schooled competitor and is likely to be just the type that Fox will need to get the 2019-20 season off to a sound start.

And he will have some other veterans around him too, should he sign on the dotted line.

The new-to-Sheffield players Fox has signed are: Jonas Liwing (36) Brendan Connolly (33) Micheal Davies (32) and Marc Olivier Vallerand (30.)

On top of that, there are returning mainstays Jonathan Phillips and Aaron Johnson (both 36) Robert Dowd and Armstrong, Davey Phillips (all 31) and Ben O'Connor (30.)

Lemtyugov was drafted 219th in the NHL Entry Draft by St Louis Blues 14 years ago, playing for affiliate team Peoria Rivermen.

In Siberia, he played for Avangard Omsk - an outpost familiar to 60 Steelers fans who went to a European tournament there, back in 1998.

While there, Lemtyugov suffered a ruptured spleen and was treated in intensive care. But he made a full recovery.