Sheffield Steelers: Firepower raises eyebrows among rivals
Sheffield Steelers' potential firepower for the coming season must be raising a few eyebrows across the Elite League.
The club has 12 players on their books who can play in forward positions.
That's pretty nifty planning and on paper appears to be a stronger offensive line-up than last season.
In fact, overall, coach Aaron Fox thinks he will likely have a more powerful squad in defence and offence when compared to the 2019-20 pool.
He said: "It always helps when you have such a good core coming back and you are only looking for a piece here and a piece there.
"You can be patient and wait for exactly what you are looking for.
"It helps having people like Tanner Eberle, Marco Vallerand, Brendan Connolly, Anthony DeLuca and John Armstrong - this alone is a pretty good group.
"With Robert Dowd coming back, I am assembling 'ghost' line-ups with the last game we played on one side and the way we look right now.
"I'm looking at who I'm replacing, how do we get better...and I feel we have done a good job," said the coach.
"I have one guy left to sign and I feel comfortable. I like the two defencemen we have signed as well as our goalie. It is just the last piece I am grinding on."
Fox says the main position of quality across the EIHL is goaltending.
"If you look at goalies in the league there are some really high end ones," he said.
"That is going to be a big strength in the league this year.
"C.J. Motte coming back to Coventry, Mac Carruth at Cardiff - I have known him from his Austrian league days he is really good goalie, Tyler Beskorowany coming back (to Belfast) the guy Glasgow signed (Shane Starrett) has had a couple of good years, Kevin Carr back in Nottingham, Kevin Lindskoug in Guildford is good."
Overall, the coach is impressed by the recruiting undertaken by Cardiff Devils, Belfast Giants and Nottingham Panthers, whom Steelers play in their two pre-season matches.
Fox is also looking forward to Sheffield's trip overseas - the Continental Cup Group F matches over the weekend of November 19-21.
Opponents include Danish host Aalborg Pirates and HK Gomel of Belarus. A third opponent will be unveiled in September.
Nottingham won the tournament in 2016–17 and, like Belfast, have been runners-up, too.
"It is winnable, I think so..I like our chances for sure," said Fox.
"Aalborg are a good team, I don't know a ton about Gomel, I will have to do a bit of work on them but I think we will be a match-up for any of those teams.
"It is not going to be easy but we will go there and try and win."
As The Star predicted, former Steeler Ben O'Connor has signed for Cardiff Devils.
Head Coach Jarrod Skalde said: "Ben is a very talented player and has huge offensive upside. I started seriously watching him at the World Championships and was impressed with his overall game.
"He skates so well, has great hands, he plays with poise and makes simple plays everywhere on the ice."