Jono Bullard looks at the experience of top leagues around the world on Elite League rosters for the coming season.
Those of you with a long memory may remember I wrote an article on the previous TCW website prior to last season about the top league experience in games played on each EIHL roster. Just over a year on since that article and I’m doing the same again, only difference being I’ve added a column showing how many imports each team has left to sign out of the permitted fourteen. The leagues I’ve included are exactly the same as last year, the NHL & AHL from North America; The SHL & Allsveskan from Sweden; Finland’s Liiga; The German DEL; Switzerland’s NLA; The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) & The Czech Extraliga.
The table (in team alphabetical order) is as follows and all stats are from Elite Prospects:
The first thing that jumps out at me from that table is the lack of top league game experience in Cardiff, who are many people’s favourites for the title (including mine at this point). Has the Devils worth been over-estimated or will their immense fire-power and EIHL experience see them take the league crown?
The influence of Sheffield Steelers new Swedish assistant coach Jerry Andersson is showing in their line-up with almost 1,000 combined SHL & Allsvenskan games on their roster. Steelers also have the most AHL experience with over 2,000 games throughout the squad.
Both Braehead Clan & Belfast Giants are the only EIHL squads to have game experience from every league in the table above and both will be looking to challenge for the Elite League title. The Clan are strong in AHL, Swedish and German league experience. However the Giants, with three imports still to sign, are likely to add to those already impressive top league numbers over the coming weeks.
Nottingham Panthers will also be looking to challenge and again look strong with NHL, AHL & Scandinavian experience. With two imports left to sign and both expected to be top end players, those numbers should increase.
The Edinburgh Capitals look to have upgraded. This time last year they only had 73 AHL games combined on their roster. It’s a different story this season with NHL, AHL, KHL & nearly 1,000 games of Czech Extraliga experience.
Danny Stewart will be hoping to improve the league fortunes of the Coventry Blaze after two poor campaigns by their standards. They have very similar top league experience figures to rivals Cardiff. Could be some very interesting battles between the two this season.
Fife Flyers also have more top league experience than the same time last year and with four imports still to sign those numbers could increase further. However the lack of British players that have so far put pen to paper in Kirkcaldy will no doubt be causing concern amongst the Flyers faithful.
Dundee’s numbers have shown a slight decrease to this time last year but most of those can be attributed to Lou Dickenson who has left the Stars for Cornwall in the LNAH. With two imports left to sign head coach Marc Lefebvre will be hoping for another competitive season from his team.
Finally the Manchester Storm were only a few weeks old at this point last year and only had a combined 116 games of top league experience. Having had a whole summer to recruit coach Omar Pacha & GM Neil Russell have brought in more experience and will be aiming to secure the play-off place that they just missed out on last time.
Of course hockey is a game played on ice, not on paper and none of the top league experience in the rosters may matter once the trophies are handed out. Stats can only tell us so much before a puck is dropped in anger, however could that extra experience for some teams prove vital when it comes to the crunch? Time will tell as another fascinating season awaits.
You can follow Jono on Twitter @JonoBullard