EPL: Season preview 2016/17

After a summer of speculation about the make-up of the league, the EPL starts this weekend with the same 10 teams who finished the last campaign.

Basingstoke Bison will be keen to defend their title, but with numerous teams improving their rosters they will face some stiff competition.

Here’s the BIH preview for the upcoming season:

Basingstoke Bison – Secured their first league title since 1993 last season and will no doubt be hungry for more.

New forward Petr Polodna boasts better statistics in the Czech Republic than prolific Bison marksman Tomas Karpov and he could be amongst the top point scorers this season.

Jakub Barton looks a quality addition to the defensive ranks, while rising British star Vanya Antonov was a standout performer for the Bracknell Bees last season and should blossom in Bison’s colours this year.

Peterborough Phantoms – Deservedly finished runners-up last season, but have seen a third of their squad leave for pastures new.

Craig Scott and Milan Baranyk have joined rivals MK Lightning, but Head Coach Slava Koulikov has retained the services of star netminder Janis Auzins.

James Archer’s return to the Phantoms from Manchester Phoenix is a boost to their hopes, while new Czech import Petr Stepanek could be a shrewd pick up.

Koulikov has added a batch of promising British players to his roster who are likely to flourish under his guidance.

Guildford Flames – New import Marek Maslonka has produced the goods across Europe in recent seasons and there’s every reason to believe he’ll be a top import in the EPL.

With Danny Meyers and Kevin Phillips in defence and netminder Richard Ullberg back between the pipes, Flames will be hard to beat once again.

However, with Janis Ozolins, Matt Towe and Lee Esders no longer with the club there’s a suspicion that Paul Dixon’s roster looks short of bodies – particularly if Flames suffer any injuries.

Telford Tigers – After failing to mount a serious defence of their title last season, Head Coach Tom Watkins has pulled out all the stops this summer to bolster his roster.

Tigers have added to the growing contingent of import goalies with the signing of Polish stopper Ondrej Raszka, while Watkins has also significantly strengthened his forward ranks.

Proven Elite League performers Doug Clarkson and Matty Davies have joined the club, with ex-Phoenix forward Michal Satek also signing for the Shropshire outfit.

With experienced duo Jonathan Weaver and Jason Silverthorn agreeing another year, Tigers should be the team to beat this season.

MK Lightning – With the club heading to the Elite League in 2017/18 they will be expected to leave the second tier with a bang.

Polish netminder Przemyslaw Odrobny has all the attributes to be a star in the EPL, while former Phantoms duo Craig Scott and Milan Baranyk should add plenty of scoring capacity.

Odrobny’s compatriot Mikolaj Lopuski looks another solid addition to the team’s forward options and with Frantisek Bakrlik back for another year Lightning have plenty of firepower.

Jordan Cownie, Bobby Chamberlain and Lewis Hook lead a solid looking core of British players, meaning Head Coach Pete Russell should be taking his team to the EIHL with a trophy or two to their name.

Swindon Wildcats – Mark Smith’s addition to the defensive unit is a major boost to the Wildcats’ hopes of success this season.

Stevie Lyle remains one the best netminders at this level, but the roster looks particularly strong in the forward department.

Player/Coach Aaron Nell, Jan Kostal, Jonas Hoog, Tomas Malasinski and Max Birbraer guarantee a bucket load of points, while the short term addition of Ben Davies is no bad thing either.

Wildcats have historically flattered to deceive in recent seasons, but could this be the year when everything finally drops into place?

Sheffield Steeldogs – Another club which has lost key players, most notably Lubomir Korhon, Dalibor Sedlar and Tom Squires.

The free-scoring Arnoldas Bosas returns for a second season, while Donatas Kumeliauskas and Pavel Mrna should both be a hit in the EPL.

New defender Tomas Brcko has played at a decent level in Slovakia and Norway, and returning forward Andy Hirst continues to go under the radar despite producing some impressive numbers over the past four seasons.

The Steeldogs will be tough to play against, but whether they can perform consistently enough to finish in the top half of the table is open to debate.

Hull Pirates – Player/Coach Dominic Osman has bucked the trend by signing British goalie Jordan Marr as his starting netminder.

Slovakian forward Andrej Themar arrives in the EPL on the back of a prolific season in Norway, while Stanislav Lascek is already a proven performer in the league.

With former Sheffield Steelers and Great Britain forward Jason Hewitt added to the squad and new import ‘D’ man Jaroslav Sarsok bringing plenty of European experience, the Pirates should be capable of improving on last season’s ninth-placed finish.

Manchester Phoenix – It’s been a difficult summer for the club, with question marks over their financial status and the lack of a permanent home amongst the main issues they’ve had to contend with.

Phoenix maintain they are committed to a future in the EPL despite playing the early part of the season on the Fylde coast, although their roster appears desperately short of numbers at this stage.

Head Coach Tony Hand has attracted some high quality imports including Czech forward Jakub Langhammer and Finnish defender Joni Tuominen, but more depth is needed if Phoenix are to enjoy any measure of success this term.

Bracknell Bees – Another team who faced an uncertain financial future during the summer, but the Bees pulled through to take their place in the league once again.

New import forwards Luka Basic and Krystof Kafan will be tasked with carrying a forward line-up shorn of Antonov’s services following his departure to Basingstoke.

Bees have also added two Slovakian ‘D’ men – David Gaborick and Martin Pavlicek – with both looking like they could be solid signings.

Like Phoenix, the Bees’ squad would benefit from a few extra bodies although their lack of numbers may well create extra opportunities for some of the club’s younger players.

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