Sheffield Steelers teenager ready to rise to Canada challenge

Alex Graham is determined to address the one issue which might jeopardise his dream of making the big time in north American hockey.

Sunday, 18th July 2021, 12:00 pm

The Sheffield Steelers and Steeldogs winger has been handed an incredible opportunity to show off his offensive prowess after being drafted by Canadian major junior team Niagara IceDogs.

Back home in British hockey, everyone he has played for will be rooting for the 18-year-old.

Veteran GB centreman Matt Myers, who iced alongside him for Steelers in the EIHL mini series, is backing him to do well.

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"Alex has all the skills, a great shot, is strong on the puck and has great hands. He needs to maybe work on his skating a little bit but he knows that" Myers said in a recent interview.

Myers recalled the era when Steelers' defenceman Davey Phillips was attempting to make his way in American hockey.

"Davey was in the Chicago system, they had a power skating coach who came down from the Blackhawks to help out.

"He had lots of guys doing drills and Davey wasn't doing them as well and some were 'taking the Mickey.'

Alex Graham in Sheffield Steelers colours. Picture: Dean Woolley

"But the power skating coach told them this guy (Phillips) has never had skating lessons and when he'd had them, Davey came back and his skating was better.

"It was the same when (Nottingham Panthers') Josh Tetlow went to Finland; he came back a much better skater.

"There is no reason why Alex can't improve, he might not become the fastest skater but he can be more efficient."

Graham is pragmatic about the challenges ahead.

He said: "I know skating is not the strongest part of my game but that is obviously something that I am working on, and trying to get better so I can get more out of my game."

Graham's last outings were for Steelers in the mini series, where he dressed for 16 games and scored one goal.

Prior to that, he'd scored 20 points in 11 games for Steeldogs in the NIHL Cup.

"It was good to get regular game time in the Elite series and be able to be around the professional side of it more often than I was the previous year" Graham said.

"I could have done a lot better in the series. I don't think I did put up what I believe I should have, points-wise" said the teenager.

"I enjoyed it at the Steeldogs; they are a brilliant organisation.

"I think they will have a really good season, because of the 'family aspect' they have within the team, they are all so close. They really do try and pull together as one."

Graham is sometimes compared with Liam Kirk, the Sheffield youngster who was also drafted to the OHL and is now hoping for an NHL career with the Arizona Coyotes.

Asked about their mutual styles, Graham said: "In the goal scoring and play making aspect we are similar but I think I am a bit more physical than Kirky."

The Dronfield lad is currently 6ft 2ins tall and getting bigger: "I feel I am growing into my body" he said.