How Alex Graham can carve himself a role at Sheffield Steelers

Alex Graham under the watchful eye of Jonathan PhillipsAlex Graham under the watchful eye of Jonathan Phillips
Alex Graham under the watchful eye of Jonathan Phillips
Aaron Fox says Alex Graham must use the last two regular season games to make a statement about his future value to Sheffield Steelers.

Yesterday The Star revealed the exciting 20-year-old was hoping to break back into the national ice hockey programme, and was on a high after scoring his first goal for the EIHL club this year.

He is now too old to go back to the U20s, and is considered to be only an outside chance of falling under the selection process for the Men's team ahead of the World Championships in Nottingham, at the end of April.

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Fox says there is no doubt what Graham has to do to make himself an option at the highest club level domestically, after starring with lower league Sheffield Steeldogs during the 2022-23 campaign.

Alex Graham with Steeldogs. Picture: Pete BestAlex Graham with Steeldogs. Picture: Pete Best
Alex Graham with Steeldogs. Picture: Pete Best

"I think he is knocking on that door right now," said the Steelers' coach, who is preparing for the Glasgow Clan home game on Saturday and Sunday's trip to Cardiff Devils.

"Mid-season, if I cannot guarantee him ice time, it is better for him to develop down at that (NIHL) level, which he has done.

"We have talked about his (shot) release, it is special, it's the little details of his game that he can work on a little bit.

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"I don't think he wants to come and be a fourth-line player in this league.

Aaron FoxAaron Fox
Aaron Fox

"That's not Alex's game.

"If he is going to play in this league I think he is going to want to play top nine minutes, (where a coach can) put him in a position to have success and score,

"He has been very reliable for us, he's been great.

"He is going to get an opportunity in the next two games for sure to showcase his game," said Fox, adding that a decision on Graham's longer-term future may then follow.

Graham, himself, is open-minded about what lies ahead.

Time will tell if he follows the model of Cole Shudra's two-year extension at Leeds Knights, or go straight into a regular Steelers' line, he said.

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Graham rubbed shoulders with two greats from Steelers' past, Colton Fretter and Levi Nelson, at Robert Dowd's testimonial, this week.

He would have been around 11 when Fretter joined and 12 when Nelson followed and his memory of them is understandably a little vague.

But he says he wants to mirror the achievements of these retired players who enjoyed long and distinguished careers.

The club's fans' all-time hero, Ron Shudra, has been keeping an eye on Graham, despite the fact, his own sons Cole and Tate play for NIHL rivals Leeds Knights.

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"Alex is getting there now, he is starting to use his size, he is learning how to do things, getting himself into good situations - the top-shelf goal he scored last weekend was a cracker," said Shudra.

"It just shows that if you put some guys in a situation where they will be likely to succeed they will put the puck in the back of the net for you.

"It would be nice if he could be a top nine player for Steelers but with 15 imports apparently coming in next season, I don't know what is going to happen."