How Sheffield Steelers' new boys fit into city's NHL history

The arrival of ex-NHLers Keaton Ellerby, Barry Brust and Justin Hodgman into the Sheffield Steelers' ranks adds another chapter to the EIHL's club's proud history of providing a fresh start and new adventure to former top-flight players.

Sunday, 29th August 2021, 12:57 pm
Sheffield Steelers v Belfast Giants. Sheffield Arena. Paul Kruse in action. Thursday 17 01 02

He expects big things from that trio and the others.

Ellerby has iced 218 times in the biggest league on earth, Brust 11 and Hodgman five.

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Defenceman Ellerby, a 32-year-old Canadian, is excited at the prospect of playing in the EIHL.

Looking back, though, he says his fondest recollection in the NHL was getting drafted in 2007 by Florida Panthers in round one (10th overall.)

"That was a huge highlight of my career," he told The Star.

"I remember playing my first game, my parents came down to it to watch.

"Being traded to Los Angeles Kings was a pretty cool experience, too. They had won the Cup the year before the year I was there (2012) we went to the third round and lost to Chicago which was obviously disappointing but the next year I got traded to Winnipeg Jets and LA won the Cup that year, (2014)...there are a lot of ups and downs!"

Despite the roller-coaster environment, he said: "Every minute you get in the NHL is special.

"I cherished every moment I spent there, I have cousins who have played in the league too."

Ellerby rates Drew Doughty (1,059 games) as the best d-man he has played with: "The game is so easy to him, he was made to do it.

Steelers V Bracknell Bees - Brad Lauer tries to pass James Morgan

The best he has played against includes Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Joe Thornton.

So that is the status of Ellerby and other ex NHL pair who are due to arrive in Sheffield.

But they are by no means unique.

Even Ellerby's colossal NHL record falls short of five other Steelers to have clocked up appearances in 'The Show.'

Sheffield Steelers old coach Mike Blaisdell

At the top of the Sheffield list is left winger Paul Kruse, who played 451 NHL games.

That's followed by Brad Lauer, (357) Mike Blaisdell (349) Aaron Johnson (291) and Dennis Vial (242.)

Ellerby comes next, followed by the likes of Ken Priestlay, Jason Lafreniere, Scott Levins and Tim Wallace, all in triple figures.

Kruse, the top dog, is perhaps a reminder that all that glitters is not gold, however.

He played one season for Sheffield (2001-02.)

They won the Play-Offs that year and Kruse was team captain. Yet many fans thought his contribution was overshadowed by the likes of Scott Allison and Rick Brebant and the Canadian soon left for Belfast Giants.

Steelers V Ayr. Dennis Vial in action.

Similarly, Lauer disappeared from view at the end of his Steelers' year.

Blaisdell though was a different kettle of fish. He coached the team from 1999 to 2004 and brought back multiple titles. He even played four games when the team was injury-laden.

Johnson, who played 87 games for Steelers before the pandemic, will be a class act to follow.

And tough-guy Vial? Nobody who saw Dennis fight (323 penalty minutes in 99 games) will ever forget him!