IT may be early days but Paul Thompson is happy with the way his new-look Sheffield Steelers' team is shaping up.
After bringing in 16 new faces over the summer, Steelers' head coach Thompson finally got to get his hands on his new charges this past week at Ice Sheffield.
A Monday morning induction, including presentations from Thompson, owner Tony Smith and club doctor has been followed by several on and off-ice sessions ahead of this weekend's pre-season double-header at Ice Sheffield against Swedish Allsvenskan side Leksands IF.
So far, Thompson likes what he has seen, but admits there is much more to come from his group.
"We’ve had a great first week, great pace, great tempo - we’ve had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs and there’s been a lot of hard work gone into it both on and off the ice," said Thompson.
"Guys are getting acclimatised with coming into a new team, new coach, new city, new country, new apartments. You mix that in with a bit of jetlag and it is something that every team is going through at the moment. But I’m very pleased with what we’ve done so far."
Thompson has deliberately lined up four exhibition games against Swedish opposition before leaving himself two clear weeks of fine tuning ahead of the official season opener on September 1 when they take on Nottingham Panthers in the Challenge Cup at the National Ice Centre.
"It’s a process, it’s a four-week camp so we’re not going to throw everything at them from day one," added Thompson. "We like what we’ve seen and we want to see a good, fast pace without - touch wood - any injuries this weekend.
"We want to get some chemistry going this weekend too, We’ve had some work-throughs in practice and gone over some of our systematic stuff and I want to see that carried out against Leksands."
With Leksands desperate to earn a return to the SHL, Thompson admitted he was expecting a tough workout over the course of the two games, with former Steelers' defenceman Ben O'Connor making a quick return to the place where he spent four successful seasons.
"The biggest test for us this weekend will be Leksands’ speed and their depth - they are a good team," insisted Thompson. "They are a top Allsvenskan team who are pushing to get back to the SHL. Both games are pretty much sold out and a lot of our fans will be coming down wanting to see all of our new guys and 15 of them will be dressed this weekend."