Progress of Kieran Brown pleases Sheffield Steelers’ head coach Tom Barrasso

ON THE UP: Sheffield Steelers' Kieran Brown had made steps forwards in recent weeks, says coach Tom Barrasso. Picture: Dean Woolley.
ON THE UP: Sheffield Steelers' Kieran Brown had made steps forwards in recent weeks, says coach Tom Barrasso. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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KIERAN BROWN has shown “dramatic” improvements in recent weeks, giving Sheffield Steelers’ head coach Tom Barrasso the confidence to hand him more Elite League ice time.

Nearing the end of a two-year apprenticeship that began under former Steelers’ coach Paul Thompson, winger Brown – who turned 18 earlier this week – has found playing time difficult to come by during 2018-19.

Sheffield Steelers head coach, Tom Barrasso. Picture: Dean Woolley

Sheffield Steelers head coach, Tom Barrasso. Picture: Dean Woolley

He is one of two apprentices at the club, the other being 17-year-old defenceman Jordan Griffin who, like Brown, came through the Bradford Bulldogs junior programme. In September, shortly before Thompson’s resignation, Brown was placed on a two-way deal to NIHL outfit Blackburn Hawks before being switched to rivals Sutton Sting in December.

Given the Steelers’ troubled campaign that sees them embroiled in a desperate battle to make the play-offs, head coach Barrasso has found it difficult to give Brown the ice time he craves.

But Barrasso has been impressed with Brown since his return from the Great Britain Under-20s World Championship campaign in Estonia earlier this year.

“I’m pleased with Kieran’s contributions,” said Barrasso. “He’s done a great job, not just in the games, but in practice – that started when they came back from the GB camp. “His practice habits and his pace in practice have improved dramatically and that’s what has given me more confidence to put him on the ice.”

His practice habits and his pace in practice have improved dramatically and that’s what has given me more confidence to put him on the ice.

Sheffield Steelers’ head coach, Tom Barrasso, on apprentice Kieran Brown

It remains to be seen where Brown plays his hockey in 2019-20. The Steelers will no doubt be keen on retaining him, either by giving him increased ice time themselves or, possibly, sending him out on loan to another EIHL club like they have this season with Cole Shudra to Milton Keynes.

It would also be understandable for other EIHL clubs to try and lure him away with the promise of more ice time. Another option could see Brown return to North America – he spent two years playing Midget League with Iowa Wild before returning to the UK to begin his Steelers’ apprenticeship.

Such a move may enhance his hopes of pursuing his dream of following former Steelers’ team-mate Liam Kirk and making the NHL Draft, something he is regarded as having the potential to do.

Regardless of whether Barrasso returns to South Yorkshire or not next season – and it seems unlikely he will – he senses a bright future for the Steelers youngster.

“Mentally he still floats in and out of games where there has to be more determination and focus,” added Barrasso. “But you can see at times the skill he possesses and the sense for the game that he has.

“Ultimately lots of players have that and it’s about having the mental capacity to be focused and driven for every shift on the ice and that is what he is developing well at the moment.”