The season is almost here, and pre-season is even closer. Right now the Cardiff Devils have five new players in their line-up for the 2018/19 EIHL season, but rumours of a sixth new face joining the side are still circulating.
But for now, the Devils allowed their fans a quick look at the four new signings and one player on a two-way contract at the open training session on Wednesday night, with defenceman Ben Blood and forwards Stephen Dixon, Mike Hedden and Charles Linglet, all being introduced to the fans for the first time as they all prepare to make their Devils debuts this weekend against the Nottingham Panthers, while prospect goalie Jordan Lawday was also unveiled to the fans on Wednesday.
A lot is made of when players sign for the club, highlight videos for their past suddenly get a surge in hits on YouTube, and a couple of hundred more views on their EliteProspects page is inevitable, but while looking at video clips that are intended to only show the good stuff, and examining stats for other leagues can give you a decent indication of the calibre of player, it’s once you seem them on the ice that you really start to get a clear view of what to expect out of the player.
With four new guys set to make their first appearance on Saturday with the team travelling to Nottingham, Devils managing director Todd Kelman spoke on the clubs official website, stating “I am excited to have hockey back and even though it is only August, there is such a buzz around the rink, especially about our 4 new guys.
“We have brought in some impact players and I think we are preparing like we always do for another season where we are competing for every bit of silverware up for grabs.
“It’s hard to single out 1 of the 4 new faces as who I am most excited to see in action, but I am looking forward to Sunday’s home game as much or more than our fans.”
So let’s take a look at the new guys.
#77 Ben Blood – Defence
The only new guy on the blueline for the Devils this year is 6’4″ American defenceman Ben Blood who joins following three solid years in the Finnish SM-Liiga.
With his history of sitting in the box and either leading the Finnish league in PIMs or or at least being in the top three playing for Assat and Pelicans, he’s got the potential to be one of the heavyweights of the league this year.
On paper with 513 PIMs in the last three seasons you could believe that the Devils have got themselves and out-and-out tough guy, who’s going to throw his hits and drop the gloves.
Yes he’s probably going to do that, but he’s also got the potential to be a great defenceman in this league.
The way he trained at the open practice he didn’t make life easy for even his own teammates, let alone opposition. During net front battles he’s a monster at moving you out of the line of sight of Ben Bowns, and he’s quick on rebounds or to at least stop you getting them too.
Another aspect of his game he showcased last night is his stickhandling and passing, which on a talented defensive unit like what the Devils have, only make’s it look more daunting for opponents this year as the Devils can start plays from their own zone with such ease, and Blood will fit right into that group with his abilities on the puck.
He’s not going to be putting up huge numbers which isn’t anything out of the ordinary for him, but he’s got a lot of potential to be an impact player with more than just his physicality this season.
#84 Mike Hedden – Forward
The first forward on this list, Mike Hedden comes in with a lot of familiarity with Sean Bentivoglio who’s around for his third year in South Wales, while 33-year-old Hedden joins from German side Straubing Tigers after three solid years in the DEL.
There’s no question that the German league is at a higher standard than the EIHL, so for Hedden to be coming in showing he can compete at that level with 34, 44 and 31 point seasons in his three years in Germany, you can definitely expect a lot from him in his first year in the UK.
As a smaller left winger, Hedden has stacks of pace that will come in handy trying to get past some of the teams carrying higher d-men this year, and his playmaking abilities were clear to see. He’s ability to make that crucial pass has helped him to back-to-back 20 assist seasons in the DEL, so he’s guaranteed to impress in the EIHL.
The Devils have done great with a whole host of undersized forwards this year, and Hedden will do wonders alongside a gifted sniper.
# 70 Charles Linglet – Forward
One of the best signings around the league, not just for the Devils, Charles Linglet automatically becomes one of the teams leaders on and off the ice, after eight very impressive years in the KHL, as well as some solid spells in other European leagues.
His stats talk for themselves, and with a few niggling injuries in recent years, he’s reportedly back to full health and ready to go. He’s not too many years removed from being over a point-per-game in the KHL for Dinamo Minsk, so if he can get himself back to the health he reportedly has, he’s guaranteed to succeed in the EIHL.
He showed Wednesday night that despite his age, his skill set isn’t diminishing, he’s got great moves to get past defensemen, accurate tape-to-tape passing and a laser of a shot which will terrorise opposing goalies all year long.
#11 Stephen Dixon – Forward
Another Devils player coming straight from the German league, Stephen Dixon looks like he could be an electrifying force on the Devils offence.
He was part of one of the best Canadian teams at the World Juniors in 2005, and while some of his teammates from that tournament are stars in the NHL, Dixon has had his fair share of success in his career.
Much like Hedden, he appears to possess high level playmaking abilities that will come in handy with some of the sharp shooters the Devils have, like new boy Charles Linglet.
He’s a stocky build and strong on his skates, so he’s going to be a nightmare to try and knock off the puck, in a similar way to Joey Haddad, and his stick handling abilities are one of the best on the Devils team already.
#32 Jordan Lawday – Goalie
Lawday isn’t a guy you’ll see in a Devils jersey this season, or maybe not for a year or two, but the Devils have made the right move bringing in the soon-to-be 20-year-old goalie on a two-way deal this summer.
He was a star for the Cardiff Fire last season in a difficult situation but made the most of what he could with the team, earning First All-Star team honours despite the team not being able to pick up a win all season long.
He’s held his own at times during the open practice but has a way to go before he can look to get game time in the EIHL, but keep an eye on him for the future.
Now a team has taken a chance on him like the Devils have, and with regular game time and training with an Elite League club, he’s got a lot of potential for the future.
Featured image – Cardiff Devils Twitter.