As the festive shoppers brave the cold to rush around high streets and market stalls, we take a quick look through the list of current free agents that have recent Elite League experience. The names on his list might have a few front office’s tempted to shuffle the deck or bolster the ranks before the hectic New Year schedule…
Josh Gratton: the veteran tough guy and journeyman has represented 22 professional teams across three continents in 16 years. His recent release from Glasgow Clan has divided opinion, with some sections citing his lack of backchecking and overall effort being a valid enough reason for his quick departure and other’s listing multiple options for the chopping block ahead of the fallen Gratton. The actual reason he was released will most likely remain unknown, unless he suddenly reappears in the league or in another minor league. Gratton’s 23 points (10G 13A) in 23 games might well be enough to warrant another chance within the league.
John Armstrong: earlier this week CTP broke the news of financial difficulties and ensuing exodus for Medvescak Zagreb. The likes of Yann Sauve and Sebastien Sylvestre have since found employment outside the league, despite the former alleged to have had a pre-contract agreement in place with the Nottingham Panthers. Armstrong and four other imports have now been released by Medvescak Zagreb, as of late Friday night, and with two years of EIHL experience in Sheffield a return might be coming earlier than many expected.
Alexander Mokshantsev: when the ridiculously talented forward elected to play his first year outside of Russia, last year, in Nottingham, many heads were turned around the league. More would follow suit, when an impressive start to his debut campaign in the EIHL and CHL saw highlight-reel goals produced with regularity. The young Russian ultimately produced 41 points (21G 20A) in 56 outings, not outstanding by any means but his influence most definitely was. Mokshantsev’s style of play and excellent puckhandling left an impression on the league and its fans. The recent termination of his contract by Gap, French League, could already have caught the eye of some potential Elite League suitors.
Francis Verreault-Paul: his one year with Milton Keynes Lightning was entertaining, to say the least, with a mixture of classy playmaking, infuriating stupidity and passion Verreault-Paul caused a stir within the league. The cash-strapped Milano Rossoblu have had a fire-sale similar to Medvescak Zagreb, with the majority of import contracts cut to immediately reduce running costs. Verreault-Paul was clearly talented with 58 points (16G 42A) in 49 games, but ill-discipline (168 PIM’s) plagued him and with former coach, Pete Russell, electing to sign Guillaume Doucet ahead of him; as a result, a rapid return to the Elite League may be unlikely.
Brendan Brooks: having already been released from two EIHL outfits this season, it could be the case of ‘third time lucky’ if another team opts to pick-up the 40-year-old veteran forward. If Brooks still seriously wants to make the GB team this summer, this needs to be sooner rather than later. One year removed from being the leading points scorer for the Glasgow (then Brahead) Clan, Brook has only 6 points (zero goals) in 20 appearances and age might have at last caught up with the well-traveled speedster. However, if injuries persist into the New Year, Brooks would be a welcomed addition for many EIHL sides.
Tyler VanKleef: originally brought into Nottingham on a try-out, VanKleef was then employed on a weekly basis until the Panthers were able to bring in the players they wanted. Currently based in the UK, VanKleef could act as ‘injury cover’ if required at another point in the year, but any full-time contract is highly unlikely.
Justin Faryna: a fan-favourite in both Cardiff and Dundee, Faryna shocked the league when he left the Cardiff Devils to head home, albeit for personal reasons (more than understandable). However, the precocious talent is hopefully not be done with the Elite League and a return (at some point in time) cannot be discounted just yet.
Feature image: Timo Salva/ Elite Prospects