Following the Elite Ice Hockey League’s decision to shorten benches for the 2021/22 season, the Coventry Blaze have opted to hand two-way contracts to domestic prospects Sam Russell and Austin Mitchell-King.
The pair, who iced for the Blaze during the Elite Series, will train as part of Coventry’s roster while remaining eligible for selection with their respective National Ice Hockey League clubs.
Russell and Mitchell-King are the latest young Brits to pen two-way deals with Elite League outfits, with top-flight organisations seeking supplementary depth during British ice hockey’s pandemic era.
21-year-old defenceman Russell iced in all of Coventry’s Elite Series fixtures, partnering Alex Forbes on the Blaze’s third pair at the business end of the tournament. The Buckinghamshire-native will continue to represent his hometown club, the Milton Keyes Lightning, during 2021/22. To date, Russell has amassed 42 regular-season appearances and nine assists in the second tier.
Prior to joining the Lightning, Russell developed through the Okanagan Hockey Academy and later spent three seasons in Canada with the Ontario Hockey Academy. The 5’11” defenceman also has international experience on his CV, featuring for Great Britain at Under-18 and Under-20 World Championships.
Mitchell-King, meanwhile, will skate for the Telford Tigers this term. The 19-year-old winger, a product of Coventry’s development programme, also has international and overseas experience to his name, scoring prolifically while U18- and U20-eligible.
Before returning to British shores to ice for the Tigers during the Spring Cup, Mitchell-King spent two years in Canada at the Hill Academy. The pacey winger iced in four Elite Series games for the Blaze, registering one assist.
According to a club statement, both players will spend the majority of 2021/22 with their NIHL parent clubs, but will frequently train under Danny Stewart in Coventry. Russell and Mitchell-King will also be available for selection for the Blaze “when appropriate”.
Blaze Signings So Far:
C.J. Motte – 29-year-old goalie, USA
Jordan Hedley – 24-year-old goalie, GBR
David Clements – 26-year-old defenceman, GBR
Justin Hamonic – 27-year-old defenceman, CAN
Dillon Eichstadt – 27-year-old defenceman, USA
Nathanael Halbert – 25-year-old defenceman, CAN-GBR
Dane Gibson – 27-year-old defenceman, CAN
Ross Venus – 27-year-old forward, GBR
Alex Forbes – 25-year-old forward/defenceman, GBR
Luke Ferrara – 28-year-old forward, GBR
Johnny Curran – 26-year-old forward, CAN
Janne Laakkonen – 39-year-old forward, FIN
Alec Marsh – 25-year-old forward, USA
David Broll – 28-year-old forward, CAN
Matthew Thompson – 27-year-old forward, CAN
Evan Bloodoff – 30-year-old forward, CAN
Ryan Penny – 26-year-old forward, CAN
Sam Russell – 21-year-old defenceman, GBR (Milton Keynes Lightning)
Austin Mitchell-King – 19-year-old forward, GBR (Telford Tigers)