Vallerand, Motte, Watson Depart, Belfast Learn CHL Opponents: BIH Takeaways

-Elite League Transfers - Marc-Olivier Vallerand, Sheffield Steelers (Image: Dean Woolley)
Marc-Olivier Vallerand, Sheffield Steelers (Image: Dean Woolley)

With the IIHF World Championship in the rearview mirror, it’s time to focus on the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Elite League transactions ahead of next season. Adam Keefe’s Belfast Giants found out some important news last week, with player signings and exists announced across the league. There’s plenty to discuss, including Marc-Olivier Vallerand: let’s get into it.

Related: IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A to be held in the UK in Nottingham

Belfast Giants: Champions Hockey League Groups Set

Belfast learned their CHL opponents on Wednesday [25 May], joining Europe’s elite clubs in the 2022-23 iteration of the tournament.

Keefe’s squad will travel to Czechia, Sweden, and Switzerland to start the season, as they were placed in Group H alongside Oceláři Třinec, HC Davos, and Skellefteå AIK.

Although the Giants avoided last season’s finalists, Rögle BK and Tappara, they face an uphill battle to escape the group phase unscathed.

Skellefteå AIK finished fourth in the Swedish Hockey League in 2021-22, falling at the semi-final stage to eventual runners-up Rögle. Davos finished fifth in the Swiss National League before being swept by playoff champions EV Zug in the final four. Třinec, meanwhile, topped the Czech Extraliga.

As a result, the Giants face a summer of significance. Their ability to punch above the Elite League’s weight in the offseason will shape their CHL run. There’s plenty of work to do.

Coventry Blaze: C.J. Motte Completes AHL Switch

C.J. Motte’s time with the Coventry Blaze is over: he’ll be suiting up in the American Hockey League for the Iowa Wild next season.

The 30-year-old made 75 appearances in the Elite League, upholding a .923 save percentage and 2.83 goals-against average. He featured in two playoff games, piecing together a .953 save percentage and 1.44 goals-against average versus the Giants.

C.J. Motte, Coventry Blaze (Image: Scott Wiggins)
C.J. Motte, Coventry Blaze (Image: Scott Wiggins)

Motte became a fan-favourite immediately arriving in the West Midlands midway through 2019-20, replacing Jamie Phillips between the pipes, and leaves the Blaze searching for a new starting goalie. Whoever signs in Coventry will have big shoes to fill.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Edmonton Oilers Upset Calgary Flames in Battle of Alberta

After a rocky regular-season, few could have predicted the Edmonton Oilers’ run to the Western Conference Final. Jay Woodcroft’s team starred down elimination in Round 1, beating the LA Kings in Game 7 to set up a Battle of Alberta series in the second round.

Calgary entered the best-of-seven contest as clear favourites to advance but were ultimately overpowered by Edmonton’s stars. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl lead the playoffs in points, with mid-season signing Evander Kane not too far behind.

However, the series ended controversially, with a Blake Coleman strike waved off in the final minutes of Game 5. Minutes later, Edmonton won the match in overtime to eliminate the Flames. But was this a “distinct kicking motion?”

Regardless, the Oilers march on and will face the Colorado Avalanche in the final four.

Marc-Olivier Vallerand, Jamal Watson Depart the Elite League

Two of the Elite League’s top performers from last season have announced their departures from the Elite League, with Jamal Watson signing for HC Innsbruck and Vallerand pursuing new opportunities in Europe.

Vallerand is the latest player to leave the Sheffield Steelers, joining John Armstrong, Justin Hodgman, and Adrian Saxrud Danielsen on the outs. He notched 59 points (26 goals, 33 assists) in 45 appearances last term, a team-leading clip.

Watson exits the Elite League with a greatly enhanced reputation. He registered 51 points (14 goals, 37 assists) in 54 appearances from the blueline for the Guildford Flames. The Canadian will suit up in the ICE Hockey League next term.

Coming Soon in British Ice Hockey

There are plenty of stories to keep across over the coming weeks, with signing season set to ramp up.

In the National Ice Hockey League, the Hull Seahawks are worth keeping an eye on. The second-tier’s newest club are set to announce their first signings in team history:

With the NHL’s Conference Finals due to begin this week, there’s plenty of exciting hockey to look forward to. Interesting times, indeed.

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