Signings Update: Faces old and new sign up for Elite League

Matthew Myers may not have an Elite League berth this season (PHOTO: David Williams)

The new season is a matter of weeks away now and the teams are filling their roster spots, with Cardiff Devils and Nottingham Panthers at the forefront of the recruitment drives.

Arguably, the biggest one since we last came to you was the move of former Belfast Giants captain Blair Riley, who was announced as joining Cardiff Devils, along with four other players, one of which a new addition.

Riley spoke to British Ice Hockey about his move and is already anticipating the reaction he’ll get from the Giants fans when he returns there in the Devils uniform.

He said: “The reaction to my move is not something I’m surprised by to be honest and I don’t take it personally.  There are things people say on social media that’s entertaining for me and it makes it enjoyable.

“It also shows people care and I look forward to the response I’ll get when I go back to the SSE Arena.  I made a lot of good friends too of course on and off the ice so it’ll be fun when I return there.”

Joining him in South Wales is Finnish forward Masi Marjamaki, who joins from Czech Republic side Pirati Chomutov and a player with KHL experience with Jokerit.

Devils also announced the return of Matthew Myers for what will be his testimonial year, as well as Matt Pope and Stephen Dixon back for another campaign in the Elite League.

Going the other way is Mike Hedden, who ended his stay in Cardiff after a season to move to Allen Americans in the ECHL.

Nottingham Panthers have been active with new and old players virtually passing each other by at the door as Tim Wallace shapes his team for the new season.

American D-man Danny Fick was first to arrive, joining from ECHL side Wheeling Nailers, following by Swede Adam Deutsch, signing from SHL side IF Brynäs.

Winger Sam Herr was next to arrive, making the switch from Ontario Reign in the AHL while Wallace was reunited with Latvian forward Georgs Golovkovs, who played for him at Milton Keynes Lightning last season.

Going the other way are Dylan Olsen, who has agreed to a move to Slovakia to join HK Nitra, forward Luke Pither is off to Germany to join Pete Russell’s Freiburg and Kevin Henderson announced his retirement.

One curious departure is that of GB forward Robert Farmer, who moves on after five years to an as yet unknown destination, but it’s rumoured he could try his hand in Europe.

In Sheffield, following on from the signing of Russian forward Nikolai Lemtyugiv, coach Aaron Fox bolstered his defensive line with the signing of James Bettauer from DEL side Krefeld Pinguine.

However, they bid farewell to Josh Pitt, who went to Hungary to sign for MAC Budapest, who will play the Steelers in a pre-season game next month.

Belfast have lost Blair Riley and David Rutherford, but have brought in Matt Pelech (PHOTO: Courtesy of Belfast Giants)

There was one in and two out in Belfast since we last spoke as life after Riley began in Northern Ireland.

David Rutherford became the eighth player to leave last season’s championship winning side, taking up an offer to play in France with Lyon.

But Matt Pelech is coming in from Villacher, the Austrian side who play in EBEL and has experience in the NHL, AHL and in Germany in the DEL.

And head coach Adam Keefe reckons his new man will be a popular one among the Giants’ faithful.

He said: “Matt is a natural leader who is excited to be a part of the defence of the Elite League and Challenge Cup championships. He will bring quality and toughness to our blueline as well as experience to the locker room. Giants fans are going to love watching Matt in action.”

In our last round-up, Coventry Blaze announced the arrival of Chris Pohlkamp.  The good news for Blaze and Pohlkamp is his brother, Matt will be joining him at the Skydome.

The forward joins from Reading Royals in the ECHL and revealed his interest in coming to the UK peaked when his brother had committed to Danny Stewart’s side and fancied it himself.

Matt Pohlkamp is joining his brother, Chris at Coventry Blaze this season (PHOTO: Reading Royals)

He told the Blaze website: “When my brother Chris signed, I was looking for a place to play in Europe. Once he had signed with Coventry it sparked my interested into looking to play in the UK and the possibility of playing with him.

“I had a great conversation with coach Danny Stewart and loved everything he had to say about the Coventry Blaze organisation and the city.”

One player returning to the UK after a year away is winger Mikael Lidhammar, who has signed for Glasgow Clan following a year in Romania with Corona Brasov.

The 31-year-old previously played for Guildford Flames and Dundee Stars, with whom he reached the play-off finals weekend in 2017 under Marc LeFebvre.

Speaking of Dundee, two of their players from last season have decided to move on, with Fabrizio Ricci going to Wichita Thunder while Francois Bouchard is off to LNAH side Petroliers du Nord.

Fife Flyers also saw their defenceman Ricards Birzins return home to Latvia to take up an offer with HK Kurbads after spending the last two seasons in Scotland.

Manchester Storm were also dealt a blow when GB forward Mike Hammond, who was the national team’s top scorer in the World Championships in May, ended his three-year stay in the UK to join DEL2 side Lausitzer Füchse, coached by Corey Neilson.

While one top GB performer seeks pastures new, one is staying as Guildford Flames confirmed that Ben Davies, who scored that memorable winning goal against France to secure survival, is returning for his third season.

The news of Davies’ return came days after Jordan Abt decided he was sticking around for Paul Dixon’s team as well, making it with Davies’ return, 14 players staying at the Spectrum.

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