WHEN Tanner Eberle steps out on the ice for Sheffield Steelers next season he will do so on the back of a hearty recommendation from a trusted source.
Head coach Paul Thompson was more or less sold on trying to bring the 24-year-old winger to South Yorkshire for the 2018-19 campaign, but was convinced his instinct was right after a telephone conversation with former Steelers' boss, Mike Blaisdell.
The 58-year-old led the Steelers to multiple titles between 2000-04 - including a grand slam in 2001 - and, back home in North America, was an admirer of Eberle's as he made his way through junior hockey for Regina Pats and Moose Jaw Warriors.
Eberle has since played in the the ECHL and the AHL, his time limited in the North American second tier to just a handful of games, although Blaisdell believes he is good enough to play more at that level, making him a sound investment for the Steelers.
“Fans will gravitate to this guy,” said Blaisdell. “I like him a lot. He can score and make plays but he also brings the 'grit factor' - he isn’t afraid to get under the skin of the opposition.
“I believe he can play at the American league level. He skates so well and I think the bigger rinks in the UK will help him even more. He has a ton of potential. I’ve been out on the ice with him when he has practised and I like his shot , he drills it.
“The biggest thing for me, though, is that he brings it every night. He plays hard and he is a scoring threat whenever he is out there."
The Elite League will provide Eberle with his first taste of hockey outside of North America and Thompson believes he can help provide some of the energy lost to the Steelers through the retirement of Levi Nelson, which was announced at the back end of last week.
“Tanner was on the radar,” said Thompson. “I’d watched three full games of him and liked what I saw. Then the agent mentioned Blazer was a big fan so I called him up and Mike confirmed all the good things I had seen
“Tanner plays with an edge, he is a good skater who competes hard. He feels he can contribute to our line up and I agree. I think we will find he will be a character player for us.
“We need to play with energy, maybe he will replace some of the energy we will be missing with Levi retiring."