How former Nottingham Panthers coach helped improve Sheffield Steeler’s game

It is not every day a Sheffield Steelers' player says his game has improved thanks to the help of a man whose name is synonymous with arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers.

Thursday, 23rd June 2022, 9:55 am

But Sam Jones gives credit where credit is due - and that's aimed at Corey Neilson, who played and then coached for Nottingham over a 12-year period.

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Neilson was an assistant coach for Great Britain in the World Championships in Finland in May.

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And he gave some sound advice to the 24-year-old.

"There were a lot of lessons learned, there is every time you go away with GB" said the defenceman.

"But I enjoyed Corey Neilson being there. He works with the 'D' and does a really good job.

"Corey is very defensively structured. He sees the game well and explains it really well, especially from a defensive perspective.

Sam Jones. Photo: Dean Woolley

"In fact, he sees the game defensive-first, I do enjoy that, and having his experience with GB was good.

"I think it is about switching your brain on to a whole new level and that is something you take away from it every time."

Jones had to be operating at 100 per cent efficiency during the tournament.

"It was all very fast-paced and there were a lot of details that you have to learn and can then transfer back into the Elite League."

Sam Jones. Photo: Dean Woolley

This included "improving positioning and angles, taking out a guy, learning how to calm down in own zone...I can get very emotional when I want something and can run around like a chicken with its head cut off.

"So it was about learning to relax. It is not just about working as hard as you can, these guys you are playing against are working hard but thinking on a different level, so you have to work smarter not harder.

"You cannot skate a million miles an hour every game, you have to calm down and then try to strip players.

"It would be hard not to improve significantly in a tournament like that."

Corey Neilson during his time as Nottingham Panthers coach (photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images).

Finland was the best team in the tournament and were worthy winners, said Jones.

And the Steeler was in awe of their Dallas Stars NHL'er Miro Heiskanen.

"The way he skates and sees the game!

"You think you have him then he throws a pass to the back door to a guy you didn't even know was there.

"The way he moves is absolutely ridiculous.

"He is so deceptive, he fakes guys out very well, he's an elite NHL-level skater and carries the puck so well.

Heiskanen is a defenceman. But Jones said: "He came at me a lot from D, he always ended up on my side, he is next level and only 22.

"He'd hopped off the plane from play offs and the way he plays shows you why he is on a $8.5million contract."