HAVING seen team-mate and friend Liam Kirk make all the right moves this summer in pursuit of his NHL dream, Kieran Brown is hoping to eventually tread a similar path.
The 17-year-old winger enters his second season with the South Yorkshire club, having made steady progress during the first season of his apprenticeship, a training scheme introduced by head coach Paul Thompson which had brought NHL-drafted Kirk to the club a year earlier.
As everybody knows, 18-year-old Kirk is now plying his trade on the other side of the Atlantic, currently in training camp with Canadian Hockey League outfit Peterborough Petes and under the watchful eye of head coach and former Steelers' favourite, Rob Wilson.
Kirk made history in June when he became the first English-born and trained player to be drafted in the NHL, and only the third British-raised player ever, following in the footsteps of Tony Hand and Colin Shields.
Days after becoming a seventh-round pick for the Arizona Coyotes, Kirk was drafted by Peterborough in the CHL's import draft and it is there where his NHL employers will monitor his progress in the coming months.
Brown, who has spent part of his summer helping dad Andy coach youngsters at his boyhood club Bradford Bulldogs, has already spent a couple of seasons playing junior 'midget' hockey in North America, before returning home to sign up for the Steelers.
And seeing Kirk make his headline-grabbing summer move has provided an added motivation for Brown, who registered a goal and two assists in the 24 appearances he made in his first season at Sheffield Arena.
"Liam got drafted into the NHL and that is going to push me because I want to get there eventually, but we’ll just have to see what happens," said Brown ahead of a season-opener on Saturday which takes the Steelers down to the National Ice Centre to face Nottingham Panthers in the Challenge Cup.
"Last season was a really good experience all round for me and I felt like I was progressing all the time. Hopefully, this season will be even better. With every practise I felt like I was getting better and better, I’d always be given different stuff to be working on and my shot got a lot stronger and I was working with Danny (Mawer) a lot in the gym.
"I’m always keen to learn and once practice has ended I’m always asking somebody to give me a few more passes because I just want to get better."
Steelers' head coach Paul Thompson said it was a big season ahead for Brown, whose development will be made easier after making the move to live in Sheffield permanently.
"It is Kieran's job to crack our line-up," said Thompson. "It’s very easy for coaches - there is no decision to be made if he is better than some others ahead of him, he will be in. It’s as simple as that.
"He’s still very young, but he’ll be moving over here permanently and it was tough for him last year coming back and forth from Bradford, but this makes it more manageable for us. I hope he's looking at what Liam (Kirk) has achieved and thinking ‘I want some of that’.
"He’a a talented boy. Him and Kirky are different kinds of player - he plays with a bit more jam in his game, but he’s smart and it’s a big year for him."