Jason Hewitt says there is no limit to potential of Sheffield Steeldogs’ team-mate Alex Graham

THERE are not many young British players causing as much excitement in the domestic game at the moment as Alex Graham – and Sheffield Steeldogs’ team-mate Jason Hewitt understands exactly why.

BRIGHT FUTURE: Alex Graham is being tipped to go far by Sheffield Steeldogs and Sheffield Steelers' team-mate, Jason hewitt. Picture courtesy of Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

For the past few months, the two, along with Ben Lake, have formed a destructive alliance, as the Steeldogs’ most productive line, firstly in last year’s Streaming Series and, currently, in the Spring Cup.

After two wins over nearest rivals Telford Tigers last weekend, Greg Wood’s team are now clear favourites to finish top of the five-team competition when it concludes on Sunday, March 28 – repeating their success from the earlier behind-closed-doors event held in October and November.

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Graham, 18, has comfortably held his own among some of the top names in the British game, many of who would usually be found on full-time rosters in the Elite League.

VETERAN STATUS: Jason Hewitt, pictured during last year's Streaming Series. Picture courtesy of Cerys Molloy.

Four EIHL teams – including Graham’s parent club, Sheffield Steelers – will finally get to see some action next month as part of the Elite Series.

Most import signings for the behind-closed-doors tournament held across five weeks at Nottingham’s National Ice Centre are yet to be announced, but all British players have been assigned to teams, some being ‘protected’ by their coaches before the rest were entered into a ‘Brit-Draft’ with each team taking it in turns to select at least seven preferred candidates.

Graham, no doubt much to his relief, was picked by Steelers’ head coach Aaron Fox but so, too, was Hewitt, a move which sees him return to the team he served with such distinction between 2006-2016.

It means the pair will remain part of the same team for a few more weeks, while current line-mate Lake, who played for Belfast Giants during the 2019-20 season, finds himself heading to Manchester Storm as their first round pick.

LEADING LIGHT: Liam Kirk, pictured during the 2019 World Championship Group A game against France in Kosice, Slovakia. Picture: Dean Woolley/MB Media/Getty Images

Hewitt, who as player-coach of Hull Pirates regularly found himself battling with Graham in NIHL National last season, has now seen first-hand the talent the youngster possesses, believing he can go as far in as any British player previously 
has.

“He’s certainly got the most individual skill I’ve seen in a British player,” said Hewitt, who is second in the Steeldogs’ Spring Cup scoring with nine goals and nine assists, one ahead of Graham.

“He’s just turned 18 and, obviously, there are parts of his game where the penny has yet to drop, but that’s just natural.

“But he’s a very exciting talent and somebody who could go as far as anyone has in this country,” he said.

Alex Graham, pictured in action for Sheffield Steelers during the 2019-20 Elite League season. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.

Being picked by the Steelers for the Elite Series was something Hewitt felt was important for Graham’s continued development.

Both the Spring Cup and Elite Series are seen as vital preparation for players hoping to be part of head coach Pete Russell’s Great Britain squad for the World Championships in Riga, Latvia, in May and June.

And while a number of names are guaranteed a place on the roster, there are enough squad spots still up for grabs to prompt some observers to believe that Graham could yet find himself on the plane.

“It’s huge that Sheffield have kept hold of him for the Elite Series, maybe there’s a chance that I can keep playing with him and if I can help in any way – obviously I’m not the type of player he is, but I’ve been around and I’ve seen a lot of things – then I’m more than happy to do so.

“We work really well together as a line and he is always happy to learn.”

Liam Kirk, a current Steeldogs’ team-mate of Hewitt and Graham’s and who leads the team’s scoring with 20 points, including 12 goals, is the most recent British-born player to have created major headlines in the sport, including outside of the UK when he was a seventh round pick for the Arizona Coyotes in the 2018 NHL Draft.

The coronavirus pandemic has done nothing to aid Kirk’s ambition of making it to the very top but veteran Hewitt feels Graham has the potential to tread a similar path.

“They are obviously different kinds of players,” explained the 37-year-old forward.

“Kirky is quite dynamic and an exceptionally good skater; Alex is different in that he likes to slow the game down, but as far as talent is concerned he is right up there.

“He’s certainly got some juice about him and if he matches that work-rate that Kirky has developed in recent years then he’s going to be a real one to watch.”

The Steeldogs are away to Bees on Saturday but welcome Raiders to Ice Sheffield on Sunday for a 5pm face-off. To buy your ticket to watch the game live online go HERE

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