DEFENCEMAN David Phillips has secured another season of AHL hockey after agreeing a one-year deal with Chicago Wolves.
The 22-year-old blue-liner, from Hull, made history last year when he became the first British-trained player to play in North America's second tier after signing a one-year deal with Rockford IceHogs.
He went on to record six assists in 52 games and ended the season with a +/- rating of plus-14, the second highest on the roster. The team – an affiliate of 2010 NHL Stanley Cup champions Chicago Blackhawks – made the post-season but went out in the first round of the play-offs to Texas Stars who then went on to beat the Wolves in the next round.
Although there was a chance he might return to Rockford, his move to the Wolves marks another significant achievement for the former Hull Stingrays and Belfast Giants defenceman player, clearly showing he has what it takes to succeed at that level.
"Chicago Wolves are one of the biggest clubs in the AHL and every year they seem to do well," said Phillips.
"The fact they have won two Calder Cups and regularly reach the play-offs shows how good an organisation they are.
"I knew part way through last season that I wanted to stay over there if I could so I employed an agent and, after telling him the kind of thing I was looking for, left him to it really.
"I could have gone back to Rockford but a lot more players were coming down from the Blackhawks and I think it would have been more difficult to get ice time there.
"But I'm confident I can do well at Chicago."
The Wolves - whose NHL affiliate ar the Atlanta Thrashers - are regarded as one of the AHL's bigger clubs, winning two Calder Cups – the prized post-season play-off trophy – since joining the league in 2001.
A significant difference for Phillips this year is that he is on a one-year AHL contract, meaning that if he were at some point asked to drop down to the Wolves' ECHL affiliate – Gwinnett Gladiators – his waged would remain the same.
Last season Phillips spent a few weeks at Rockford's ECHL affiliate but, as he was on a two-way deal, saw a drop in earnings as a result.
"The fact I'm on a one-way AHL deal shows they have a lot of faith in me as a player and, at this stage of my career, that's very important – it's reassuring.
"I've had a season at this level now with Rockford and that can only stand me in good stead I learnt a lot last year and I'm hoping to improve even more at Chicago this season.
"I played over 50 games at Rockford but my aim is to make sure I'm on the ice for more games this season as possible, as well as trying to pick up a few more points along the way."
Wolves GM Wendell George, a former player and assistant coach at a club he has been with since 1994, said they had a lot of confidence that Phillips would prove to be an astute signing for them.
"David is somebody that sparked interest from us at the Wolves organisation when we played Rockford last season. He definitely caught our eye," said George.
"He's a tall kid, he plays with a certain poise and he just seemed to get better and better as the season went on. And I think he will only continue to get better with us.
"We saw more of him going towards the play-offs last season and he was one of their (Rockford's) top 'D' as it got towards the business end of the season.
"Another factor in his game is that I think he realised he had a little bit of an edge to his game which came out more as the season went on, whereas at first he was probably a little bit tentative when he first started playing in the AHL, which is understandable.
"We've had nothing but positive feedback on Dave from everybody we've spoken to and we are excited as an organisation to have him here."