The Coventry Blaze will select the third player at Monday’s (8 March) Elite Series Draft, league officials have confirmed. Elite Ice Hockey League bosses also confirmed the rules covering the Draft, with teams able to “protect” five British, or dual-nationality, players.
Earlier this week, it was announced that four EIHL clubs would return to action in April to help Team GB prepare for the upcoming IIHF World Championships. Coventry will compete alongside the Sheffield Steelers, Nottingham Panthers, and Manchester Storm in a five-week mini-series held at the National Ice Centre.
For the first time in the EIHL’s history, a Draft will be held to allow head coaches to construct their rosters. Once the Draft is complete, each team will boast a roster of 20 players, including a maximum of eight imports.
On Sunday (7 March), the four participating clubs will protect five players. Protected players will not be entered into the Draft and will instead be immediately assigned to the club that selects them.
Teams can protect players if they are eligible for Pete Russell’s Team GB roster, and:
- Played for the club in the 2019/20 season;
- Agreed to play for the club in the 2020/21 season;
- Have signed a contract with the club for the 2021/22 season.
In a clarification provided to Boar Sport, the EIHL confirmed that players currently competing overseas can be protected from the Draft. An Elite League spokesperson said: “Yes they can, but obviously there’s a chance those players might not end up being available. That’s the gamble a coach will have to weigh up.”
Around 70 British players have expressed an interest in competing in the Elite Series, with many currently playing in the Spring Cup or tournaments overseas. Players under contract in other leagues can be selected in the Draft, but will only be eligible to feature in the Elite Series once released from their previous assignment.
The 2021 Elite Series Draft order was determined by last season’s point-percentage standings. As a result, the Manchester Storm will select first, followed by the Nottingham Panthers, Coventry Blaze, and Sheffield Steelers.
In the second round, the order will flip – allowing the Steelers to pick first. The Draft will continue in the following format until teams fill their rosters.
Round 1: Manchester, Nottingham, Coventry, Sheffield
Round 2: Sheffield, Coventry, Nottingham, Manchester
Round 3: Manchester, Nottingham, Coventry, Sheffield
Round 4: Sheffield, Coventry, Nottingham, Manchester
Player trades are permitted, meaning that clubs can swap their draftees following the conclusion of Monday’s event.
Gui Doucet, Director of Hockey for the Nottingham Panthers, has admitted that the Draft represents a unique challenge.
“It’s not something I expected,” Doucet told the BBC. “It’s not something you can fully be prepared for, there’s going to be some curveballs thrown at us I’m sure. But it’s a challenge, it’s fun, I think I’m going to learn a tonne in the coming weeks and I’m going to work closely with my staff to make sure we get this right.
“It’s an opportunity for us to learn and try things, and use these next twelve games to get better, try new systems, and get back in the game in the future.”