Sheffield Steelers: Marc-Olivier Vallerand 'will notice step-up in quality of EIHL'
Marc-Olivier Vallerand will notice a striking difference in the quality of the Elite League when he faces off the season with his new club, Sheffield Steelers.
That's the view of team-mate Ben O'Connor, who is confident the Canadian sniper will more than rise to the challenge.
Vallerand is one of six new import forwards brought in to bring firepower to the Arena.
He played in the EIHL with Coventry Blaze two seasons ago, before a term with EHC Lustenau in the Alps League.
O'Connor thinks Vallerand will detect an immediate difference in quality since he played in the Midlands.
"Marc is a very dynamic forward, who knows how to put the puck in the net" said O'Connor.
"I am glad he is back in the league and playing for us.
"The League has improved a lot since he was here, so it will be a little different for him.
"While the calibre of the League has improved, so will he have, after last season, where he again put good numbers up."
O'Connor doesn't think the improved quality will faze Vallerand: "He is a natural goalscorer; he just needs to get open and he will find the net."
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The Great Britain defenceman says chief rivals Cardiff Devils and Belfast Giants had certainly strengthened in the Summer.
And he believes all the others will be more competitive - pointing out that Manchester Storm had been bolstered by the signing of Jared Aulin, who played in the Swiss National League and the German DEL last term.
"At the end of the day playing in a better league and a better team should make you a better player, which is great."
Before training camp started on Monday, O'Connor hadn't seen some of the new talent on the ice before.
But he is looking forward to seeing what sort of impact that the club's first Russian, Nikolai Lemtyugov will have when the action starts.
"I am sure he will be very good. If you look at his stats, they are very impressive at a high level" said the Sheffield man.
"The Russian hockey training mentality is hard skating, practices and gym sessions three times a day, all go-go-go.
"He will be a great skater with a good skill set."
Steelers start the on-ice programme with back-to-back friendlies this weekend against HK Poprad.
Coach Fox's initial assessment of his squad's fitness readiness was the the men were "in pretty good shape."