The consistent performer who Sheffield Steelers should look to bring back

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The Elite League is done, dusted and best forgotten from Sheffield's perspective.

Since the end of domestic matters, GB's World Championship top-flight survival dreams were crushed 1,600 miles away on a Nordic ice pad.

So Sheffield Arena fans go into the hockey-less Summer months looking for better days ahead.

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At this time of year, there are always more questions than answers.

Can Steelers be successfully rebuilt? Will the big guns be back...players like Marco Vallerand, Brendan Connolly, Tanner Eberle, Kevin Schulze, Martin Latal, and Evan Mosey, for instance.

Charismatic guys are a prime attraction for season ticket purchasers and the club likes to reward their best offensive players with multi-year deals, bringing back those skaters who light up the stands.

Not every player has a huge orange army following, of course.

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It's probably the case that Antonín Boruta's name isn't in the top five players that fans would clamour to see back.

Antonín Boruta arrived on loan from HC Innsbruck amid an injury crisis a Sheffield SteelersAntonín Boruta arrived on loan from HC Innsbruck amid an injury crisis a Sheffield Steelers
Antonín Boruta arrived on loan from HC Innsbruck amid an injury crisis a Sheffield Steelers

Or even the top 10.

His style as a defenceman doesn't catch the eye as much as Schulze's or Daine Todd's before the latter was injured.

But Boruta might have done enough for Aaron Fox to consider wooing him again from HC Innsbruck, the Austrian team who loaned him to Sheffield after a spree of injuries.

The solid defenceman was a deadline day loan signing and came into the Sheffield lineup for the last 18 games.

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It took him a couple of games to assimilate - his debut came in a 5-4 home loss to Dundee Stars on March 5, a weekend which saw Sheffield slip behind Belfast Giants at the top of the EIHL table.

But he was a consistent performer in the final straight of the season which ended at play off quarter final stage, to the same Dundee side.

Boruta had initially arrived with Austrian team mate Nico Feldner, whose try-out fizzled out and he left before the end of the season.

Feldner has an Innsbruck contract for season 2022-23 and Boruta seems to have an option, but it's not entirely clear where he will hit the ice next season.

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Coach Fox says of the 33-year-old: "I like Tony's game and I thought he played well.

"His first weekend was his worst one, but he got better, we will see what they do in Austria but we are not closing any doors."

Vallerand was a keen advocate of Boruta.

He thought when he had "found his game" after initially having difficulty adjusting.

But after a while, he was a "way different player" than when he arrived into a "new locker room and a new environment."

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The EIHL had a different style than the Austrian domestic league.

Boruta had a knack for moving the puck well. "He makes great decisions, he skates well" added Vallerand.

The skater was plus-five in the plus-minus statistics and scored five points.

His only goal came in a 6-2 win at Nottingham Panthers in April.

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The former Czech international wasn't a like-for-like replacement for Todd, whose quarter-backing skills set him apart from most other defencemen in the Elite League.

So what about Todd? Well, his position is complicated by the season-ending injury he suffered.

If the Canadian's broken leg recovers completely, Todd could possibly be coaxed away for a bigger pay cheque in Europe.

Adrian Saxrud-Danielsen has signed for his home town club in Norway.

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And while Davey Phillips will return to the blueline with GB team mate Sam Jones, there is no firm news on remaining D corps members, Keaton Ellerby and Schulze.

It's all to play for - and a guessing game to keep the fans occupied.