So it’s Christmas and near enough all the teams have played half of their games so what better time to put a little piece together, the original plan was to do this myself but since I haven’t been to as many games as usual this year it left me rather limited in my choices. So I enlisted the help of a few friends in the hockey family to share their thoughts on the players that have impressed them in the first three months of the 2014-15 season, contributions were made from Peter Bradbury, Anthony Russell, Ben Callaghan and Thomas Graham of assorted ice hockey blogs and I will be sure to leave links at the bottom of this page (although the the chances are you’re reading this from one of them anyway).
So the basic rules for the team of the season were, you had to have 2 Goalies, 4 Defenceman and 6 Forwards and the standard EPL rule of 4 imports with the most picked names appearing on the first line and the less so down on the second line and further on down on the third line. Comments made from the contributors will have their initials next to their name as to tell who said what.
NM – Stevie Lyle – Swindon Wildcats
The only unanimous pick in the team of the season takes the form of Stevie Lyle, the numbers for Lyle are as impressive as always posting a .924 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.75 that slo includes two shutouts of the free scoring Telford Tigers.
AR – The master on his last ride (so he says) has actually been in fine form for the Wildcats this season. Whilst I joke about Swindon always playing to type, and they do, Lyle offers Swindon the opportunity to win every night and he’s certainly given Swindon that support they need this season if they seek to improve on last seasons finish.
IF this is to be Lyle’s last season in ice hockey he’s certainly going out on a high note boasting the best save percentage in the league is no easy feat and the master of ninja net minding could take Swindon back to the playoff finals once more
D – Tom Norton – Peterborough Phantoms
Norton has returned to the Phantoms this year after his 2012-13 spell at the club and this year has provided ballast to the Phantoms back line, his 17 points from the defence has provided a good contribution to the Phantoms impressive start to this season
AR – Norton cannot be sidestepped in his contribution. Where the goal scorers and teammate Janis Auzins get the plaudits for Peterborough, Norton is by far one of their individually most skilled players and the core of the Phantoms’ defence for me
D – Jonathan Weaver – Telford Tigers
So the first of the Telford players and arguably was one of the biggest signings seen in the EPL, Weaver has scored points wherever he’s gone and is already on 37 points this season which makes him by far the highest scoring Defenceman in the league this season. His ability to score and play as a shutdown Defenceman has been to key to making Telford the meanest defence in the league.
BC – Since dropping down Weaver has helped the Tigers to the summit of the table, the occasions I’ve seen him his puck control has been phenomenal and the Tigers are lucky to have him
F – Tomasz Malasinski – Swindon Wildcats
This one might be the bias pick in this but Malasinski has proven himself to be one of the better sharpshooters in the EPL this season and currently lies second in goals scored with 23, the Polish international has provided an extra threat to the Wildcats stacked import unit.
TG – Malasinski has really caught the eye, offering a consistent scoring threat to an often inconsistent Swindon team, Malasinski is a top 10 scorer and has already scored three hat tricks and has become a go to player for Swindon
F – Jason Silverthorn – Telford Tigers
I don’t think words can do enough justice for what Jason Silverthorn has done for the Tigers offensive threat this year, Silverthorn already has 50 points this season and is the leagues top scorer with 30.
AR – Without a doubt, the best player I’ve seen in the league this season in terms of individual talent as a forward is Silverthorn. He really should be playing in a higher level than the EPL though Telford fans won’t mind a jot. Although he doesn’t have as many points as Szabo but is a much better player and leader for that Tigers team
Arguably Silverthorn is already a contender for Player of the Year and his leading from the front for the Tigers has been inspirational in their charge for the title.
F – Joe Miller – Telford Tigers
Joe Miller has been a model of consistency for the past 7 years and is a career 1.3 point per game player, Miller often flies under the radar of most fans but usually pops up at the right time to bang home a goal. His 40 points this season is good enough to make him the second highest scoring Brit but his all round contribution on the ice is something to behold
AR – It would be remiss to include Silvethorn and not include Joe Miller in this. Miller is an attacking threat whatever team he is in so putting
him in a Telford team with Silverthron and Szabo in it is like adding rocket fuel to Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren. A player for all situations for the Tigers and in the conversation for best British forward in the league
NM – Janis Auzins – Peterborough Phantoms
The netminder everyone loves to hate this year due to certain antics he has performed in games against the Basingstoke Bison, Auzins posts impressive numbers with a .913 save percentage and a 3.20 goals against average.
Even though he’s contributed a lot to this I find it difficult to not include Auzins’ favourite fan’s view
AR – Yes that’s right, even though I called him out on BOTW a few weeks ago for his antics Auzins makes the list. Whilst I think the Phantoms netminder has a massive attitude issue(and its attitude that has cost Milan Kostourek a place on the list), it’s hard to sidestep Auzins’ contribution to the Phantoms’ rise up the EPL table.
D – Kurt Reynolds – Basingstoke Bison
Reynolds earns his place on this list through his solid defensive play, he may not light the lamp often but gives his all every shift especially when being based to do the job of two men like he currently is for the Bison.
TG – Reynolds is still one of the outstanding British D men in the EPL, a leader for his team and a rock on his own blue line. With the Bison struggling on D due to the loss of Zach Sullivan and Matt Selby’s injuries, Reynolds has had to step up even more than in years passed and I’ve been very impressed with his displays every time I’ve seen him
D – Ben Morgan – Sheffield Steeldogs
The lad from Yorkshire has come good and with a so far injury free campaign has been racking up the points for the Steeldogs and currently sits third in the teams points scored with 25. Since being given the “A” two seasons ago he has been a model of consistency in the often agricultural style of play that the Steeldogs use. Morgan is the possibly the best Defenceman in Sheffield in his solid stand up play and doesn’t take too many silly penalties like the rest of his teammates, if he keeps injury free their is no reason why the Steeldogs couldn’t climb their way up the table.
F – Tom Squires – Sheffield Steeldogs
Squires may have been overlooked by most but halfway through this season has shown he can consistently score among the best in the league, a lot was expected when he dropped down from Hull at the back end of last season but for some reason it just didn’t click, roll forward 6 months and Squires is amongst the top scoring Brits and Sheffield will be looking to keep hold of him for a few more years to come
BC – With the likes of Korhon, Ozolins and Wood on the roster, Tom Squires kind of went under the radar but has consistently been scoring for the Dogs and is going to be key in their playoff run.
F – Ivan Antonov – Bracknell Bees
Now hear us out on this, Antonov has been amongst the most impressive players this season and has been the one bright light in an otherwise disappointing season for the Berkshire side, being only 17 shows he has fantastic potential to be one of the best Brit forwards for years to come
AR – Much like Jaroslav Cesky and Michal Pinc before him, a Bracknell player is one of the hot topics of discussion Antonov was highly touted as a junior and has finally broken out this season on the Bees top line alongside player/coach Lukas Smital. Whilst Bracknell are struggling to score many goals, Antonov has been the scourge of defenders across the league in all situations.
F – Peter Szabo – Telford Tigers
It seems rather odd to have the leagues top scorer not on the first line of this but it’s the way the votes fell. Szabo has been the lynchpin for the Tigers attacking threats, his 58 points mostly from assists has provided Jason Silverthorn and others with the setup man the Tigers needed to take the team to the next level
BC – Telford signed imports known to the UK but their most impressive signing has been the most unfamiliar face in the camp and is the guy leading the league in points
NM – Alex Mettam – Bracknell Bees
This is another hear me out moment hear, how could the team that’s bottom of the table have their goalie be in a team of the season, well it’s due to the fact it’s not his fault, his numbers are eerily similar to those of Janis Auzins a .909 save percentage and a 3.41 goals against average shows that the fault in Bracknell does not lie with the man between the pipes
TG – There are netminder a in the league with more impressive numbers than Mettam but his are more sogiven he is forced to stand on his head behind a very poor Bees D unit. In fact he made the team due to his numbers being slightly lower than the outstanding Latvian Janis Auzins. He made the team because he gives his team a chance to win every night and would get more recognition with a stronger team.
D – Ben Wood – Manchester Phoenix
Ben Wood has grown rapidly in the last couple of years, this is arguably due to playing alongside Robert Schnabel for that spell, while he may not be as good as the big Czech D man was but his defensive play has grown with every year and his imposing build has made him a force on the poor Phoenix blue line
BC – A significantly improved player from last season, Ben Wood uses his size very well and has benefited massively from a couple of years with Robert Schanbel
D – Sam Zajac – Telford Tigers
Zajac is the fifth Tigers player to make this list and after his stint with the Braehead Clan has dropped back down to the EPL to join the Telford revolution whilst being a little small for a defensive Defenceman he plays the position very well and is an excellent shutdown player of the opponents imports
ARM- Rupert Quiney has more points but Zajac is the better player for my money. The former Bison who many used to tell me wasn’t good enough for the EPL has come back from the Elite League and is playing a major role for Tom Watkins’ side.
F – Matt Towe – Guildford Flames
Towe is another name that has probably gone under the radar, he returned to Guildford this year after two years in the Elite League and has provided plenty of assists for the snipers on his team. If the past his anything to go by Towe will be up there amongst the assist leaders come the end of the season and if he does the Flames will be in contention come the end of the season and the playoff finals.
F – Aaron Nell – Swindon Wildcats
The top scoring Brit in the league barely makes the team, the big Brit forward has changed his game this year since rejoining the Wildcats at the back end of last year. Nell has become a bit more of a playmaker this year with 25 assists from his 42 points and while he might not match his contribution of two seasons ago where he scored 115 points he provides a scoring threat on every shift he’s on the ice
BC – A seasoned EPL player now but he’s undoubtedly the best Brit in the league. One of the few British players who can turn a game with a flick of a stick and is performing at a consistent level again for the Wildcats
F – Ciaran Long – Basingstoke Bison
Long has been one of the highlights for the Bison this season in what too many has been a slightly disappointing start. Not one to miss out on making the big play he has turned up whenever his team has needed it and if moved onto a new line with teammate Tomas Karpov could also help start the struggling Czech’s season
AR – This one is probably because I watch him a lot but Ciaran Long is vastly under-rated and if you were putting a roster together, you’d make room for him whatever the team. Able to play as the power forward, do gritty work on the wings, play on the point on the powerplay with his big shot, Long is under appreciated by fans from teams he doesn’t play for. On his day, the king of the shootout will make you pay for underestimating him.
So there it is, your team of the season at the halfway point. My thanks must go to the people who helped out on this one and as promised if you want to check out the thoughts of those who helped either on Twitter or assorted blogs you can do so at the following
Anthony Russell – (@84arussell) https://bannersonthewall.wordpress.com
Ben Callaghan – (@slapshot6032) http://otprowlblog.wordpress.com
Thomas Graham – (@Thomas_Graham92)
Peter Bradbury – (@peterbrads) http://peterbradssports.blogspot.co.uk
Peter and I will be back in the new year as we go team by team looking at what can be done to improve the EPL teams this season and what the outcome is likely to be come Easter weekend and one team lifts the EPL Playoff Cup