Steelers: Anthony DeLuca is turbo-charged ahead of first full season in Sheffield
Anthony DeLuca is turbo-charged ahead of his first full season for Sheffield Steelers.
The winger joined then-coach Tom Barrasso's side in mid November and looked out of condition in his debut at Guildford Flames.
He was a healthy scratch after 11 games and scored just a couple of points in the first 13.
But DeLuca is a different proposition after a close season in which he could focus on his year ahead under contract.
"It was a great Summer knowing I was going to be back here" said the Canadian, who also had a couple of games in the ECHL last season.
"Finding out I'd be back at the end of last season really motivated me to work harder in the gym and be in the best shape possible coming into camp.
"Danny (Mawer, strength and conditioning coach) has been on to me almost every day checking how things were going in Canada.
"It makes such a difference when you know where you are going to be...it is hard to be motivated if you are not going back to a team."
DeLuca said Aaron Fox's squad "looks incredible."
The 24-year-old forward, who scored 24 points in 42 Sheffield games, added: "We are all going to be fighting for places and I am confident we are going to have a great year."
DeLuca and his team-mates will be given the chance to stake their claim for a place in the top six forward range, during the coming friendlies, which begin this weekend.
Rather than go for the lines that coach Fox had imagined for the start of the domestic season, the coach has said he want to mix players up to see how they if they thrive in certain combinations and situations.
The back-to-back iceSheffield games against Hokejový Klub Poprad, of Slovakia, this weekend will see both new import goalies Tomas Duba and Pavel Kantor share 30 minutes per match, according to Fox.
Poprd finished fifth in the Tipsport Liga last season.
They are a fit team, winning more overtime sessions last season than any other team in their division, and fell out of the play off at the semi final stage.
Their Achilles' heel was conceding goals - they let in more than any other side in the top seven. They have a young roster- three years younger, on average, than the more experienced Steeler side.