Who will be in Sheffield Steelers' squad next month?

After a year of EIHL inactivity, rampant speculation of who will be representing Steelers in the Government-approved mini series is suddenly on the lips of the ice hockey community in Sheffield.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 2:25 pm

The club is working to bring in eight work permit imports to join five 'protected' players...those GB players that they have on their books or have a special affinity with.

The other seven spots on the 20-man roster will be determined by the newly-installed player draft system, planned for next week, which will be hosted by the Managing Director of Cardiff Devils, Todd Kelman.

So who will be in the Steelers' roster when the action faces off on April 3, in a tournament featuring host side Nottingham Panthers, Manchester Storm and Coventry Blaze?

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Imports

Fans would love to see Brendan Connolly and Marco Vallerand back. But Connolly appears to be contracted to Greenville Swamp Rabbits in the ECHL until June.Vallerand recently moved from his loan club of Eppan in Italy to HK Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia.

Steelers' owner Tony Smith says of an imminent Vallerand re-signing: "It looks like we have missed that one."

Coach Aaron Fox has a huge pool of overseas talent to pick from.

And Smith isn't overly concerned about flying in others from abroad, despite pandemic restrictions.

"They are classed as elite players" said Smith. "So providing they are not coming in from a red zone country - where it is mandatory that you put them in a hotel for 10 days - then they can fly in.

"There is still, I think, a five day quarantine for them, but they quarantine in apartments or their hotels with the rule that they stay in but can go to practise and training. So there is a bit of flexibility on Elite League players."

Any import must depart their existing club by March 31 and Steelers want a short training camp. They may stage a friendly on April 1.

Who would you want back in this Sheffield Steelers line-up when they return to the ice next month?

Explosive offensive skaters like Anthony DeLuca and Marek Troncinksy are among imports the supporters would love to see back.

Protected players

Steelers say skipper Jonathan Phillips, is certain to be back.

So that leaves four to confirm- Robert Dowd, Sam Jones, Davey Phillips and Liam Kirk, currently playing for Steeldogs during the OHL lockdown - are likely to fill those slots.

Interestingly, Smith said there was currently no sign of a Ben O'Connor return from Steeldogs - which could mean the superstar defenceman playing against them. O'Connor was "not in our numbers" said the club owner.

The draft

That's a lottery, but Smith says he'd like to see Cole Shudra and Alex Graham back in Steeler colours.

The event should be an interesting one for fans of the four teams - and also for those of non playing clubs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who will see some of their roster guesting for English teams.

While the four coaches will be able to pick their draftees, in turn, it is possible that player-trades could be made well before training sessions start.

While much hard work is ahead, Smith is relieved that the Government finally allowed the tournament to go ahead - it was confirmed on Wednesday.

"We got there in the end. It has not been easy" he said. "All four clubs have had to work very hard, we had to go back to our original (funding) proposal, think out of the box and make it work."

"A large part of this is to rely on the public paying for the streaming system.

"We have done the numbers and we feel that we at worst should break even and at best make a few quid. But the reality is we are all taking a risk on this to try and get ice hockey back and the GB players going before the World Championships.

"It is a risk: there are no guarantees we will make a profit or that we will take a bit of a hit on it; but we are all prepared to underwrite it to a certain extent."