Unveiled: the new look Sheffield Steelers: younger, well-balanced... and much more Canadian

Sheffield Steelers will put their finishing touches to the 2018-19 line-up this week.

Saturday, 28th July 2018, 5:17 pm
Updated Saturday, 28th July 2018, 5:22 pm
Sheffield Steelers' older guard make way for younger, less EIHL-experienced players. Although Mark Matheson, left, remains from the 2017-18 crop. Pic: Dean Woolley

So, with one signing left to formally announce, what can fans look forward to seeing?

Well, if we hazard a guess that the last man in will be Canada-born (there are 14 others on the roster) and at the peak of his playing age, it’s possible to get a pretty comprehensive overview.

The team will, as coach Paul Thompson wanted, be younger.

Last year’s average player age was almost 31.

This crop will average near 27 and a half. Only nine players of the 22 are 30 or over.

The defence will be big. The attack...not so much.

We’ll have to wait and see if the 10 new forwards will be more successful in finding the net than those they replace - as Thompson demands. The jury is out on that.

But let’s take a look at what we do know.

Jiri Gula will be the “odd man out” - he is from the Czech Republic, while his team-mates are made up of six Brits and 15 born in Canada.

There’s a nice balance in left and right handers among the skaters, 11 are lefties, nine favour the other side.

Oldest man in the squad is skipper Jonathan Phillips - although the Welshman continues to defy age at 36.

Youngest is 16-year-old Jordan Griffin, an apprentice.

The oldest import is 35-year-old Aaron Johnson, the youngest overseas born player is Brandon Whistle, 20.

All the defence are over six feet, barring young Griffin who has plenty of growing time. D-man Ryan Martinelli (6ft 5ins) will look down on the rest, although centre Chris Lawrence (6ft 4ins) isn’t far behind.

Of the 13 forwards only three are more than six feet tall.

The smallest is Ryan Rupert at 5ft 8ins - an inch less than his “identical” twin Matt, according to hockey data.

So lots of statistics and indicators to mull over there.

But the main question will be this: Can Steelers, with so many players with no EIHL experience, win the League title for the first time since 2015-16?