GB Squad: Predicting Pete’s Picks

After successive promotions, the GB men’s ice hockey team have earned the privilege of playing against the very best national teams in the world- but who will make the squad this summer? This article will run through each player from last year’s championship winning squad and see which other GB skaters are making a claim for a spot on the plane to Slovakia.

Goaltenders:

Ben Bowns: the Cardiff based shot stopper is guaranteed his place in the squad and between the pipes for the upcoming World Championships. However, with the calibare of opposition higher than many of this squad have ever faced, Bowns’ CHL experience will be invaluable in a group that includes powerhouses: Canada, USA and Finland. This goaltender might well be the busiest in the tournament.

Verdict: On the plane

Jackson Whistle: after making the move over the Irish sea to Sheffield this summer, Whistle has performed adaquetly, in just his second year as a starting netminder in the EIHL. Yet, the recent addition of import netminder Matt Climie might well challenge his reign as the clear number one in Yorkshire. Despite this adjustment, a two-year contract and being the only other regular starting British goalie, Whistle will be assured of his spot in summer.

Verdict: On the plane

Thomas Murdy: the other half of Cardiff’s netminding duo, Murday has now spent three seasons as the understudy in the Welsh capital. An injury to Stephen Murphy, last season, meant Murday was the only other capable candidate for the reserve goaltending position. However, with Murphy now back from injury Murdy’s spot might well be jeopardised, unless Belfast import goalie Tyler Beskorowany freezes out the veteran for most of the season.

Verdict: On the beach

Potential Replacement(s):

Stephen Murphy: the natural choice for the third goalie slot and massively experienced. Murphy will fancy his chances of making the squad this time around.

Wildcard(s):

Brad Day: will only be selected if injuries mount up and now the number three in Sheffield, enjoy your summer Brad.

Jordan Hedley: again, only in the picture if injuries play a factor. Although, with Coventry seemingly unable to find a fit import goalie he could be afforded a few more chances than any other British back-up.

 

Defencemen:

Dallas Ehrhardt: the dual national is now a familiar face in the Elite League, having spent the past three seasons representing Manchester Storm. Ehrhardt’s ability to play on both sides of the defence will give him a significant advantage over the other squad hopefuls. Moreover, standing 6ft4 and weighing in at 102kg, his physical prowess might be enough to convince coach Peter Russell to select him again.

Verdict: On the plane

Stephen Lee: this vastly experienced blueliner has now spent a decade representing the Nottingham Panthers and has consistently been selected by the GB staff since 2009. A right-handed shot that deserves his spot in the “big-time” for perseverance and dedication alone. Furthermore, recent exposer to the CHL knock-out stages and lightning quick European forwards will be vital to this D corps. One of the keys to success is continuity, his established partnerships with other members of the squad will be vital this summer.

Verdict: On the plane

Ben O’Connor: his recent return to Sheffield was touted by David Simms, as the homecoming of their ‘messiah’ (perhaps a little overboard). Although, O’Connor is the bonafide star in this GB squad with experience in Canadian juniors, Kazakhstan, Sweden and France. A sensational showing in this summers international led to KHL side, Barys Astana offering him a contract. Unfortunately, this contract was withdrawn before he got the chance to prove his worth. However, shortly after, Allsvenskan jumped on the British free agent, but just last week O’Connor made the decision to resign with Sheffield. His 6 points (4G 2A) in 5 appearances, last summer, and smooth skating were priceless for GB in securing gold. Expect O’Connor to spend huge amounts of time on the ice, in all situations.

Verdict: On the plane

David Phillips: does any Brit divide opinion like Davy Phillips? Love him or loath him, Phillips is one of the most international capped players still active in the Elite League. Not the most skillfull or offensively threatening blueliner, Phillips does take the body well and kills penalites. An international debut aged 19, in 2006, now appears a lifetime away for even the most loyal of GB supporters. Likely to feature in the bottom-pairing, Phillips has the trust of GB staff and selectors.

Verdict: On the plane

Mark Richardson: with 65 international caps and 624 EIHL league apperances, Richardson is the most experienced blueliner from last summers group. This right-handed defencemen is most likely to form the top-pairing partnership with O’Connor. A dependable, classy and smart player will have to be at his very best to keep the forwards at bay. One of the easier decisions for coach Russell this summer, I suspect.

Verdict: On the plane

Zach Sullivan: playing for the national coach during the regular season can have its advantages and but it also has its disadvantages, especially when that side is struggling to win. After a breakout 2017-18 season, Zach Sullivan thoroughly deserved his spot in the GB line-up, albeit the 7th defencemen role, last summer. This roster spot is arguably the most unsettled with many potential candidates lurking in the peripheries.

Verdict: On the beach

Paul Swindlehurst: after deciding to join the Belfast Giants this summer, Swindlehurst has settled in nicely with the larger ice surface suiting his skate-first style. Despite still being relatively young, at 25, Swindlehurst has over 250 EIHL league appearances and 20 caps for GB. Although, with GB assistant coach, Adam Keefe, watching closely his spot is still might not be 100% guaranteed. Yet, the exclusion of Swindlehurt would be a massive shock and not something to be expected.

Verdict: On the plane

Potential Replacement(s):

Mark Garside: with 30 international caps and an injury free start to the season, Garside could well be in the picture if Russell wants to include 8 defencemen in the 25-man squad. This reliable blueliner will be wanting to be in Slovakia this summer.

Evan Mosey: after leaving Nottingham for the second time this summer, Mosey would have likely traveled to Budapest if injury hadn’t curtailed his plans. The decision to leave the Elite League could work out well for him, if selected, and the ability to play upfront should see him selected as the ‘utility-man’.

Josh Batch: the other ‘utility-man’ that wasn’t included last year, Batch would bring size 6ft4, 100kg and would be work-hard in any position. Unfortunately, for Batch, the GB selectors appear to have looked elsewhere, in recent times, but a good season could see him extended an invitation to the training camp.

* Travis Ehrhardt (passport dependent): the elder brother of Dallas, Travis has an impressive list of former clubs and leagues, especially by Elite League standards. Furthermore, with Ehrhardt boasting over 250 AHL appearances and playing for GB head coach in the regular season, his inclusion cannot be dismissed (assuming he wishes to become a dual national). If the passport is handed out, I would expect him to be joining his younger brother in Slovakia, as GB are no strangers to dual national players.

Wildcard(s):

Jeremy Lundin: after 8 seasons plying his trade in the now defunct EPL, Lundin transitioned into the Elite League superbly. That well, he was invited to the GB camp last summer and just missed out on the squad. Yet, if the other blueline candidates stay healthy, it would be a massive shock for Lundin to be in Slovakia.

David Clements: after spending the majority of his junior career in Canada, Clements decided to return to Coventry and has performed been than expected. An off-season contract extension, two years, highlights the trust he has developed with the Blaze coaching staff. Although, if he was to make the squad it would be another shock- but he must be getting closer.

Craig Moore: after missing the majority of last season through injury, Moore might well have a shot at making the summer camp this time around. After two impressive years in Dundee, he made the move south to Cardiff in the hope his development could be furthered. Moore possesses the ability to play wing and defence, which could make him an attractive option for the GB selectors. A solid and injury-free year could see his number called by Pete Russell, definitely one to keep an eye on.

Jonathan Weaver: one of the best GB players of all-time, Weaver is now 41 and has not played in the Elite League for five seasons. However, the second most capped GB international has been included in the squad’s consistently (1997-2017) but would definitely be seen as a wildcard if called upon this summer. Perhaps Team GB could offer him an advisory role for the younger players?

 

Forwards:

Oliver Betteridge: at only 22, Betteridge has nearly 200 EIHL appearances, European silverware, CHL and international experience, pretty astounding if truth be told. However, international hockey isn’t forgiving and some may argue this might well have come too soon for the young man. Although, with only 25 spots available- this might simply be a numbers game, i.e. how many defencemen Peter Russell wants in the squad. Yet, with above average skating, good hockey IQ and the ability to kill penalties, Betteridge should be abroad the plane this summer.

Verdict: On the plane

Brendan Brooks: this selection, or non-selection, might well have been made in the off-season when Peter Russell elected not to bring Brooks back to Glasgow. He will turn 40 this month and with only 1 point in 12 league appearances, Brooks needs to start producing quickly in order to warrant another selection. Although, a proven goalscoring record, good skating speed and bucket loads of experience, Brooks will always be within a whisker of the squad.

Verdict: On the beach

Ben Davies: the real headaches starts here for the GB selectors, in my opinion. Does Ben Davies have enough to centre a line in the World Championships? Or will they look elsewhere (like they did in 2017), with multiple options now available for the selectors. The diminutive Welsh forward is a good skater and tenacious competitor, either way this one is going to be difficult.

Verdict: On the fence

Robert Dowd: a point-per-game player, Dowd will be in Slovakia and no doubt in the top six. The 41 points (21G 20A) in 49 internationals highlight Dowd’s offensive capabilities and if GB are to be competitive this summer he needs to light the lamp regularly. Although, with an injuring delaying the start to his 9th full season as a member of the Sheffield Steelers, Dowd is yet to score this campaign, but this will not yet concern the selectors.

Verdict: On the plane

Robert Farmer: the scorer of that goal…Farmer brings a lot of tangibles that coaches love and opponents hate. An agitating power forward that could well flourish if used correctly, with a penchant for the forecheck and willingness to drop the gloves Farmer will be a key component for the GB offence. Farmer also possesses the skills to produce offence and will be one of Russell’s ‘bankers’ this summer.

Verdict: On the plane

Luke Ferrara: after his release from Sheffield in 2017, Ferrara took up the opportunity of more ice-time in Coventry and performed superbly. This play was recognised by the selectors, as he made his GB international debut in the summer. An impressive start to the 2018-19 season looks to have further improved his stock within the league and if this form continues Ferrara should be expectant of the call.

Verdict: On the plane

Mike Hammond: the third and final dual national within last summer’s squad, Hammond was the leading points scorer in the EIHL last year and another easy selection. Although, with only two points in five outings last summer, Pete Rusell might have expected more out of this man. Yet, with a proven points scoring recorded in the EIHL, Hammond is able but assured another opportunity in the squad.

Verdict: On the plane

Liam Kirk: the recent GB flag carrier in the 2018 NHL Draft, was taken 189th overall by Arizona Coyotes and subsequently signed for the Peterborough Petes in the OHL. Kirk could well envisage more ice-time (this summer) if his game has improved, as expected by playing in the world’s best junior league. He definitely will be the one to watch and might well force his way into the Top 6. This player could play a prominent role in the summer.

Verdict: On the plane

Robert Lachowicz: a player that has been forced to reinvent himself over the years, formerly a point producing forward, Lachowicz has more recently has been used as a checking forward that kills penalties. An international since 2010, with 40 international appearances and a touch over 500 EIHL league appearances Lachowicz better keep his summer free.

Verdict: On the plane

Matthew Myers: with an international debut in 2003, Myers is another player with tons of experience. A testament to his longevity and importance, is underlined by his important role and value in Cardiff. Currently joint 6th, in the all-time appearance list for GB, Myers will most likely continue to be a disrupting presence infront of net on the bottom-line for Pete Russell.

Verdict: On the plane

Brett Perlini: consistently the best forward last summer for GB, Perlini will be on the top-line again. The former NHL draft pick (192nd overall by Anaheim Ducks) is now into his second year in the Elite League and should be another easy ‘yes’ for the GB selectors. Younger brother, Brendan Perlini, now has close to 150 NHL appearances and appears to have dual citizenship, worth a call perhaps? Either way, Perlini will need to produce for Team GB.

Verdict: On the plane

Jonathan Phillips: the leader of GB since 2013, captain fantastic has been a stalwart of British hockey and will no doubt be given the chance to lead again. One of the best skaters in the Elite League, Phillips might have to lean on this to compete in Slovakia. Another clog in the important bottom 6, Phillips might not have thought this potential World Championship appearance possible, considering GB were in Division B in 2017. Good work skip.

Verdict: On the plane

Colin Shields: the all-time leading goal scorer for GB and one of the best finishers ever to have iced in the EIHL, Shields was drafted 195th overall in 2000 by Philadelphia Flyers and remained in the North American systems until 2007. Despite this, Shields still tops the EIHL for points recorded with 593 points (229G 364A) in 532 games. An eye injury has prevented Shields from finding his stride so far this year, but with plenty of games left there is no need to panic. Hopefully he can get himself into tip-top shape and be a key player for GB one last time.

Verdict: On the plane

Potential Replacement(s):

Ciaran Long: given the chance to move-up from the EPL by Ryan Finnerty, Long hasn’t looked back and after a productive debut season in the Elite League he made the GB summer camp. Ultimately he came up short, but with 13 points (3G 10A) in 15 games this season, Long is definitely pressing his case for another opportunity. Although, below average skating ability might well hinder his chances of making the final squad.

Lewis Hook: another player that made the step-up from the EPL, Hook was impressive for Milton Keynes Lightning in his debut EIHL season. His play caught the eye of selectors and he was extended an invitation to the GB camp, but he was another that fell short. The decision to leave MKL for the Belfast Giants might have been a little easier, knowing GB assistant coach Adam Keefe would be tutoring him and the caliber of linemates higher. Hook will be hoping for another chance at camp.

Sam Duggan: after benefiting from the Swedish junior system, Duggan has now further bolstered the Cardiff forward line. The decision to join the EIHL’s best outfit caused a few ripples (namely in Guildford) and his arrival casts serious doubt over Ben Davies’ position in the GB squad. Still only 20, Duggan can play either wing or centre and possess excellent skating speed. This young British forward will most likely make the camp and stake a serious claim for a spot on the plane.

Ross Venus: this young Brit cracked the GB squad in 2016, but failed to last the pace in 2017 and was cut during the camp. Despite this disappointment, Venus was handed a two-year contract extension and alternative captain role in Coventry. This season, injury has prevented him from making the necessary impact required to make the squad again. However, with time on his side and if Venus carries over last season’s form he should be inline for another opportunity at camp.

Wildcard(s):

Craig Peacock: perhaps the most mercurial British forward of recent times, Peacock can scintillate as often as he can frustrate. One of the best puckhandlers and two-way players in the EIHL. At 30, his points production has declined almost annually since his brief stint in Denmark, with Frederikshavn White Hawks. Not out the picture just yet, but Peacock might face an uphill battle for an invitation to the GB camp. He is definitely the best of the rest.

Jordan Cownie: after making the decision to resign in Dundee, Cownie has started to establish himself as a Top 6 foward in the Elite League. So far this season, he has 9 points (G6 3A) in 15 appearances and could start to turn a few selectors heads if this points production continues.

Jonathan Boxill: a defensive forward, that made his return to Belfast in the summer. Despite the younger Brits knocking him down the peaking order, in recent times, Boxill could be recalled for the first time since 2016 if a few injuries persist.

Bari McKenize: another more defensive forward, McKenize has now spent his past six seasons in the Elite League splitting time between Glasgow, Dundee and Fife. Yet to make an international appearance McKenize would be a shock selection, but does have an outside chance of making the camp if injuries are lingering.

Jordan Buesa: still very young and but highly skilled, this tournament is probably too soon for Buesa. After an impressive showing in both the u18 and u20 GB squads last year, he made the decision to leave Glasgow for Fife. Although, an injury has prevented him making the line-up in recent times, Buesa is still one of the hottest British prospects and will only get better.

 

Feature image: ‘russianmachineneverbreaks.com’

 

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