Sheffield Steelers summer recruitment gets underway

Aaron Fox's behind-the-scenes summer recruitment for Sheffield Steelers' 2020-21 roster started to come together today.
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The club has been largely silent about who will be returning - partly because of the uncertainty over when the new season will start and also which imports were prepared to play in the UK following the pandemic.

Today though Fox confirmed that winger Robert Dowd, whose season was wrecked by injury last term, will return along with Davey Phillips, his GB defensive partner.

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But Kieran Brown, 19, leaves, probably for Leeds Chiefs in the National League.

However John Bettauer will honour the second part of his two-year Steeler deal.

The Canadian, 29, was a healthy-scratchy at times - he sat out the Challenge Cup final win over Cardiff Devils in March, for instance.

He will be looking for a better, injury-free campaign.

Fox said the return of fit-again Dowd was "like signing a new player.”

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Dowd was on course for a 30-goal season when he had to undergo two shoulder surgeries.

"It was frustrating sitting in the stands,” said Dowd.

"But with great help from the club's medical staff I’m back fighting fit and lifting the same weights I would have been if the injury had not happened.

John  BettauerJohn  Bettauer
John Bettauer

“I’m now just waiting for the green light to get back to the rink and start skating.”

Fox regards the GB forward as a "shoot-first player.”

And of Phillips, he commented: "Davey plays a solid, smart, physical game. He keeps the game simple and is willing to be that team-first stay-at-home D-man so others can be rewarded.

Robert DowdRobert Dowd
Robert Dowd
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"Winning teams need a guy like this in their line-up. He also keeps the locker room in good spirits; he’s quite a funny character."

"We are building a squad to compete for trophies and knowing these guys are back under contract is a good feeling."

Later today, Steelers will announce other re-signings, plus the possible addition of an exciting young Brit.

You don't have to be a brain surgeon to work out which imports the coach has been prioritising.

Take, for instance, top 'plus-minus' player Tanner Eberle.

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Last month, Steelers tweeted that they'd listened to their fan base posting the comment: "We hear you Sheffield #OneMoreYear" under a picture of the 26-year-old.

Many Arena fans would also be relieved if they heard top points scorers Brendan Connolly, Marc-Olivier Vallerand and Anthony DeLuca had agreed new terms.

Steelers had a refreshingly proactive offensive style last season and those three forwards were synonymous with that approach.

If Fox has added Marek Troncinsky to his list of returnees - he was the most productive offensive defenceman in terms of points - it would be a coup and would serve up a message to the rest of the EIHL.

*Cole Shudra and Alex Graham will have a two-way deal with Sheffield Steeldogs next term.