For the last few seasons, it’s been hard for teams across the EIHL to keep up with the Cardiff Devils, who at their worst have been maybe the second-best team in the country. Coming off their second straight league title, the Devils are gearing up for the three-peat, and they’re going to have a great chance at it by the end of the season.
One of the biggest themes of the Andrew Lord era of the Cardiff Devils is how many familiar faces are in the locker-room each year, and that’s the same this year. Only four new faces are in the line-up, and each bring their own qualities that only improve on last-years already strong squad.
Sure, losing Andrew Hotham is a massive blow to any team, and Ben Blood is no replacement by any means, but what he’s shown already is that he’s not just a big tough defenseman, but he’s got great vision, passing and smarts about the game and he knows when it’s time to lay the body, and when it’s time to make the smart hockey play, and as he gets more comfortable in the team, he’s really showing why he spent three years in Finland.
Charles Linglet comes with little need of introduction, a former star coming straight from the KHL after some injury troubles, providing he’s back to full health he’s going to tear the league apart, and so will Mike Hedden and Stephen Dixon who’ve both come straight from the DEL.
The quality of player Andrew Lord has been able to attract (and the league in general) is amazing to see for the progression of the EIHL, but while the league around the Devils builds strong rosters that on paper looks like this will be the toughest test the Devils have faced since winning their first league title two years ago, it also shows that the strength of the squad is only increasing despite some notable departures.
Ben Bowns is back in goal, and not only has shown he’s best goalie the country has to offer but can be the best of any nationality in his position in this league, and has the chance to shine again this year with the big bodies he has in front of him clearing the crease allowing him to do what he does best, stop pucks and be the back bone of the squad.
Joey Martin is Joey Martin, if you ask Neil Francis he’s the greatest Devil of all time, if you ask me, he’s one of the best players to have graced the Elite League with his consistent performances, and ability to not only bury pucks, but give his teammates the chance to do the same.
Joey Haddad leads by example with his intelligent play, impressive stickhandling and strength and compete level around the net, and he just keeps getting better and better. He’s a vital part of the team going forward, as well as Layne Ulmer who despite his age is still producing and is one of the key components of the teams powerplay.
The loss of Hotham should release Gleason Fournier to really take control of the Devils defence, and there’s no doubt he’s one of the most naturally gifted skaters in the league and has better offensive smarts than half the forwards in the league but can also put on a dominant defensive display which makes him an incredible dual threat in the Devils side.
And Tom Parisi…oh…never mind.
The Panthers and Giants look like true contenders as well this year, so the Devils are really going to have to come out of the gates strong, and if they can have success in the CHL they can ride that wave into the Elite League and really push to be the only team to complete the three-peat.
With the chemistry the team has built over the years, the battle for the league will go right down to the wire, but the Devils are in pole position right now.
Featured Image- Wiliam Cherry/ Press Eye –
This caption and all photo captions are not to be counted in the overall word count, I put way too much effort in making the content 666 words to let captions ruin it for me.