Why Travis Oleksuk will fit in at Sheffield Steelers

Chad Huttel knows what it is like to play on a Sheffield Steelers' team packed with some of domestic ice hockey's biggest names.

By Bob Westerdale
Monday, 2nd August 2021, 11:45 am

In his single season with the club, he played alongside the likes of Jeff Legue, Ryan Finnerty, Ashley Tait, Jonathan Phillips and Jason Hewitt.

So when he heard that old college hockey roommate Travis Oleksuk had been recruited by Steelers he was delighted - confident that the Canadian, 32, will fit in well at the EIHL club.

The pair were close buddies at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where Huttel played before joining Steelers in 2011.

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"'T.O.' is a playmaker but he will also score goals in the Elite League and will put up some numbers" promised the former defenceman.

"He is great at face offs and makes great passes. He won't necessarily lead the league in scoring, or be the toughest guy, but he does everything well - there are no weaknesses to his game.

"He's a great bloke, super genuine, nice guy....and a hell of a high-end hockey player. He will get along with everyone, he checks all the boxes."

Huttle believes the role of the centreman is "probably the most important position in the game right now."

Sheffield now have a few to call on after a busy Summer period of signings.

"If you are going to be top-heavy in any position that is the one to have it" says Huttel.

"As a decent-sized guy T.O. can definitely move, he skates really well. He plays a complete game, is strong defensively, and moves the puck well.

"T.O. played at a high level in the AHL and I was surprised he didn't get time in the NHL.

Travis Oleksuk: Photo by Werner Krainbucher

"As an athlete he was very good at softball and basketball too."

Huttel recalled how Oleksuk had shone in college hockey when his team-mates included NHL notables Justin Falk (710 games) JT Brown (406), Justin Fontaine, (216.)

"He was as good as anyone."

Huttel, 32, retired from pro sport after leaving the UK to return to his home of Hermantown in Minnesota, United States.

Chad Huttel and family.

He had been on the cusp of joining Hull Stingrays but injury hampered him. He now markets medical equipment and is an assistant coach at a high school hockey team.

"Sheffield holds a place in my heart" said the family man who is an assistant coach at a high school hockey team.

Huttel was pleased to hear his old team-mate Jason Hewitt is back playing in Sheffield, with the Steeldogs.

"He is the British bulldog, nobody expects anything less of him than what he showed in the (EIHL) mini series. Playing in that cannot have been easy having been out of that level for four years (with Hull Pirates).

"Him being back is great for Sheffield and the community - he has the "It factor."

"Any coach has to have guys like him."

Chad Huttel pictured in a Steelers promotional event at Tinsley Cafe.