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Saturday, 30 June 2012

EPL 2011/12 Season Review - The Defence

Number 4 - Luke Boothroyd (GP54 Pts 21)Still only 25, it seems Luke has been around forever! Since his debut for the Hull Stingrays in the old BNL Luke has now played over 360 professional games of hockey. Captain fantastic over half of those for the Phoenix. Like is an elder statesman of the Phoenix roster and the past season has been one of his best. Despite his size he is one of the best defenceman on the EPL and one of the few EPL players who could easily hold his own in the import heavy EIHL. The great thing with Luke is, you know he will play his best every game and, when he does, you don't notice it! He does his job without fanfare he just gets on and does it! The 2011/12 season is a high for him with 4 goals, including one special shot from the red line! I posed the question last year, on whether the Phoenix should retied the number 44 shirt for Harabin, on reflection the number 4 is probably the next shirt retirement for the Phoenix.
Season rating: 9/10

Number 10 - Ryan Johnson (GP53 Pts 8)

Ryan is a veteran of the EPL and has divided his recent seasons between the Phoenix and the Steeldogs. Ryan is a simple kind of player, he's not the tallest but he's one of the toughest. Build like the proverbial brick outhouse Ryan is one hell of a player to try and move. He will never light up the scoring charts but he will work hard and make life for the opposition difficult. The past season had seen him play in the utility role playing, primarily on D, but helping out the forwards where necessary. Would I have him back next year? Depends on our budget and who we have signed up, I would take Ryan back but, with the caveat that I would try and upgrade his position.
Season rating: 6/10

Number 12 - James Neil (GP54 Pts 20)

One of the best loved players on the Phoenix roster James is a player who arrived as a forward but has become an intelligent defenceman. The past year has seen James come on along way in his development, learning from the likes of Spelda/Boothroyd he is no longer a weak link. Despite only being 22 James has played nearly 340 professional games of hockey, astonishing for such a young guy. Much like Luke Boothroyd James is not a big guy, but uses his mind with great effectiveness. Which more experience and help from the older guys on D he could become a great EPL defenceman. The 2011/12 season saw James put up his best points total for the Phoenix so I would expect next season to be even better!
Season rating: 7.5/10

Number 15 - Ben Wood (GP53 Pts 9)

Ben Wood is a prime example of why the Phoenix moved to the EPL. He is a guy who has progressed through the ranks of the Phoenix since joining from the Flintshire Freeze. Jake Nurse will be hoping to emulate Ben as he begins his Phoenix career next season. Ben's game is based on confidence and the past year will have done wonders for him. A tall and very strong player Ben is played in the utility role like Ryan. More often on offence Ben is, and has always been, a defenceman. But the past year has seen his hockey sense develop so much. He car read the game better now, place himself on the ice more effectively and is more than willing to get into the corners and battle for the puck. He is also more than happy to take a shot when he can, most of his 6 goals from last season were shots taken through traffic. I really enjoy watching Ben play the game, his enthusiasm is infectious and he is a player I would have back every year! The 2012/13 season will be his fourth full season and should see him pass 200 games for the Phoenix.
Season rating: 7/10

Number 26 - Jaroslav Spelda (GP41 Pts31)

He's got the #moveslikespelda Jaro came to the Phoenix from Italian side Eppan/Appiano the big Czech defenceman excelled in his first season in England. Partnering Harabin as the Phoenix second import D Spelda exploded into the EPL with big hits and mahoosive slap shots! Having a career year Spelda has become a fan favorite and, I may even say this, in my opinion a better player than Ladislav Harabin. I would be delighted for Spelda to come back for a second season in Manchester. He was brilliant for the Phoenix and, when he had his injury mid season, it really affected the club and derailed our title push. I genuinely believe he could play in any EPL team and improve them which, is a big reason I hope he returns to the Phoenix!
Season rating: 9/10

Number 44 - Ladislav Harabin (GP51 Pts44)

Returning for his second season in Manchester Ladislav has had a good year but, possibly overshadowed a little by Spelda. That being said the Phoenix are a better team when he is on the ice. Where Spelda is the stay at home D man, Harabin likes to get forward and has a wicked shot. The past year has seen his best point production in his career and, at the age of 31, he has many more to come. The past year was blighted a little, opposition fans will say this, by Harabin's tendency to embellish calls. Of his 54 penalty minutes im sure most were for diving or clipping. If he returns I hope he can work on this side of his game as everything else is excellent. He is another tough D man and possesses an awesome shot. I would have Harabin back in a heart beat.....unless we can get a second Spelda! If he does return, I just hope he can have an injury free season for us as neither of his past two has seen him play the full compliment of games! Like Spelda, the Phoenix miss his presence on the ice.
Season rating: 8/10

Number xx - John Connolly (GP4 Pts 0)

Very much a journey man kind of player, Connolly came to the Phoenix from the Slough Jets and really helped out the Phoenix defence at a time we were struggling for bodies. A small player John is much in the mould of Luke Boothroyd. An intelligent player who can use his stick to play defence and a player who is willing to mix it up in the corners. John only player 4 games for the Phoenix but I remember being impressed by him!

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