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Elite League: One player who must deliver for each Scottish team

The Dundee Stars, Glasgow Clan, and Fife Flyers skate towards the new season with high hopes and reasons to be optimistic.

Shane Owen is signed to the Fife Flyers' 2022-23 roster (Image: William Cherry)

There are plenty of reasons to feel optimistic for just about every hockey fan and franchise in the country with just weeks until the start of a fresh Elite League season.

The Belfast Giants have already returned to competitive action, starting their campaign with an unwinnable back-to-back versus Finnish opposition in the Champions League.

Everyone else has either started preseason, with the Cardiff Devils already several friendlies deep, or are now only days away from hitting the ice.

Elite League: Scotland’s must-watch players

This week, British Ice Hockey will highlight one player who absolutely must deliver from each Elite League squad, starting with the three teams from Scotland.

Dundee Stars forward Carter Johnson

Canadian forward Carter Johnson has all the base attributes required to make an impression in the Elite League.

The 27-year-old will play outside North America for the first time this season, with his previous professional experience coming with the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder, Wheeling Nailers, and Maine Mariners.

Carter Johnson, now of the Dundee Stars (Image: Miami University) - Scotland Elite League

Scotland Elite League: Carter Johnson, now of the Dundee Stars (Image: Miami University)

Johnson finished last season with 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 14 appearances for Maine, following a 35-point (11-goal, 24-assist), 58-game stint with the Nailers. He also notched five points (three goals, two assists) in six playoff appearances.

The 6-foot-3 attacker was similarly effective in his rookie season, recording 45 points (16 goals, 29 assists) in 69 appearances for the Thunder.

Johnson played a more defensive role in college, excelling in the middle-six through four low-scoring seasons at Miami University (Ohio).

“Carter is a big winger, that can play hard down low, make plays down the ice and he skates very well for a big man like that, so we are looking forward to having him,” explained Dundee head coach Marc LeFebvre.

“The way he skates, should translate well onto the bigger ice in Europe and obviously everyone wants to improve their game day in day out to help the team and he is no different.”

With Dundee’s roster light on star power, Johnson could quickly become a key player as LeFebvre attempts to lock in a playoff spot with his new team.

Glasgow Clan centreman Michael Pelech

The Glasgow Clan approach the new season with a much-improved roster and a relatively straightforward aim – leave the drama behind and focus on winning hockey games.

Canadian centreman Michael Pelech, who joins Glasgow from the ECHL’s Atlanta Gladiators, will be a key puzzle piece this term and should be expected to hit the ice in full stride.

Michael Pelech, now of the Glasgow Clan (Image: Atlanta Gladiators) - Scotland Elite League

Scotland Elite League: Michael Pelech, now of the Glasgow Clan (Image: Atlanta Gladiators)

The 33-year-old arrives in Scotland and the Elite League after a 13-year ECHL career, amassing 686 points (208 goals, 478 assists) in 884 games for a handful of high-performing clubs.

Last term, Pelech exceeded the point-per-game plateau despite finishing the campaign with almost a century of penalty minutes.

In other words, the 6-foot-3 attacker plays the kind of eventful style that Elite League fans adore.

“Mike completes our forward lines and I’m delighted to welcome him to the Clan,” said head coach Jason Morgan.

“He’s coming off his best pro season in the ECHL and we’re excited to see him compete in a purple jersey in the season ahead.

“Mike is a big, natural two-way centre who excels in all areas of the game and another key piece of our team’s success. He adds size, skill and leadership to our deep forward core and another welcome addition to the Clan hockey family.”

Fife Flyers defender Aleksi Mäkelä

Aleksi Mäkelä is the kind of sneaky performer who will fly under the radar in the Elite League.

The Finnish defenceman boasts a wealth of experience around the continent, headlined by a seven-year career in Liiga.

While Mäkelä has never produced points prolifically, his defensive results speak for themselves and will translate quickly to life in Fife.

The 30-year-old spent last term with Ritten in the Alps Hockey League, finishing the season plus-16 and with 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) to his name. While plus-minus is an imperfect metric, his plus-seven performance in the postseason is also worthy of note.

Aleksi Mäkelä, now of the Fife Flyers (Image: IIHF)

Scotland Elite League: Aleksi Mäkelä, now of the Fife Flyers (Image: IIHF)

Mäkelä skates well, is known for making savvy defensive reads, and will play top-pair minutes the second he arrives in Scotland.

“Aleksi brings 250 games from the highest level in Finland,” said Fife head coach Tom Coolen.

“He was recently an SMLiga champion with powerhouse Karpat, as well as a European Champions League-winner. I see Alexsi bringing his experience as a steady defender to our team, helping us in the defensive and transitional aspects of the game.”

Netminder Shane Owen is still expected to be the main man in Fife, but Mäkelä’s emergence will play a key role in reducing the Canadian’s workload.

Which Scotland-based Elite League players are you looking forward to watching this season? Reply in the comments.

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