The Cardiff Devils took a major step towards completing their roster for 2018/19 with the announcement of Stephen Dixon joining the side with just weeks until the first pre-season game against the Nottingham Panthers.
Dixon joins the side from German side Wolfsburg after spending two years in the DEL, and the World Junior gold medalist from 2005 has a wealth of experience across a number of top leagues in Europe.
After spending his major junior career with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the QMJHL playing two seasons alongside former Devils captain Stuart MacRae and captaining the side in his final year in the same team as another former Devil in Chris Culligan.
During his junior career he represented Canada at the Under 18 level once and also won a Silver with the U20 side in the 2004 World Juniors, following it up a year later with gold in the 2005 World Juniors on a star studded roster featuring NHL stars like Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron to name a few.
After finishing his junior career in 2005, Dixon went on to three solid years in the AHL with Wilkes-Barre and Portland before venturing overseas to join up with Brynäs in Sweden in 2008.
“Stephen Dixon is a solid two-way centre and has performed in Europe’s top leagues for the last decade” Head Coach Andrew Lord explained.
“He is a great skater, which he would need to be to stick in league’s like the KHL, Finnish Elite or Swedish Elite leagues and is a proven winner.
“We expect him to be an impact player in the Elite League and someone the Devils’ fanbase is going to love.”
Since moving to Europe in 08, Dixon has spent his entire career since here, playing in Sweden, Russia, Finland and Germany before moving to South Wales this summer.
Dixon can be used both down the middle and on the wing and has a great ability to create plays, shown by his assist totals throughout his lengthy career. The Devils lost Paul Crowder to the Fife Flyers recently, but bringing in a player of Dixon’s calibre and as such as a reliable player as he is in the faceoff dot, the Devils will be looking threatening in all areas of the ice with Dixon around.
Dixon’s experience at high level European sides in the Champions Hockey League will also be a big help for the Devils as they look to emulate the success of the Nottingham Panthers of last year who became the first British side to make it out of the group stage last season.
One of the best spells in Dixon’s career so far came in his time in Finland, playing for Ässät in his first stint between 2011 and 2013, and again for Tappara in 2014 through 2016.
In 188 Liiga games for the two sides he posted 127 points including 96 assists, finishing second in the league with Tappara in his first season with the side, and going on to glory during to 2015/16 season, being crowned Liiga champion on the same side as Winnipeg Jets superstar Patrik Laine.
Dixon isn’t the most physical player on the Devils roster, usually only picking up a handful of PIMs each season, but he makes his presence felt around the net when he can, and on a team with some big bodies like Mark Louis and Ben Blood, they’ll free up the ice for the likes of Dixon to do what he does best, create opportunities.
Rumours of Dixon’s arrival in Cardiff began earlier in the week, and the signing was confirmed during a Q&A session with Devils Managing Director Todd Kelman as he answered questions of all types of nature from fans in Cardiff and around the league.
Dixon joins as only the third new face in town for the Devils, joining forward Mike Hedden and also defenseman Ben Blood with the team gearing up for a hopefully impressive Champions Hockey League campaign, while they also look to go for the three-peat and be crowned EIHL champions for the third year in a row, something no team has managed with the Coventry Blaze coming the closest so far, finishing second in 2008/09 after being back-to-back champions the year before.
The Devils are only a couple of players away from completing their roster for next season now, and with largely the same group of guys around for another year, and the high quality of the new guys coming into the picture, it’s hard to imagine Cardiff won’t be in the title conversation for most of the season.