Stingrays import toughness to defence

HULL STINGRAYS' player-coach Sylvain Cloutier believes his latest defensive import has more to offer than just a physical threat on the ice.

Slovakian blue-liner Jozef Sladok, 22, spent the majority of last season with Romford in the EPL, having spent time in North America's CHL under Cloutier at Corpus Christi IceRays.

Although renowned for his no-nonsense approach – he was the Ontario Hockey League's most penalised player in 2007-08 – Cloutier believes Hull fans will quickly see there is much more to Sladok's game.

"He's played in junior World Championships and as an import in North America, so he already has great experience," said Cloutier.

"You don't get those kind of opportunities unless you contribute in all areas.

"Having had the opportunity to coach him in the CHL I know exactly what he brings to the table and he's just what I've been looking for.

"He is a big, strong defensive defenceman who is going to bring the physical presence to our back end that we need.

"He's going to be watching everyone's back and he will do anything he needs to do for his team mates."

When just 16, Sladok made his full Slovakian Extraliga debut for his home town club, HK Zvolen.

After a successful season dividing his time between the club's Under-18 and Under-20 set-ups, he was drafted by the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL, one of the three junior hockey leagues which constitute the Canadian Hockey League, for players aged between 15-20.

In his two seasons at the club, he helped the Whalers to land the OHL Championship and secure a place in the Memorial Cup finals. In 88 games for the club, the 6'5" blueliner racked up 323 penalty minutes.

It was then when he was picked up Cloutier who had not long started his first coaching role at Corpus Christi.

Sladok's capture is a repeat of the move which saw Cloutier sign another of his former Corpus Christi players in the shape of forward Jereme Tendler last week, the 36-year-old coach clearly opting to stick with what he knows for what is predicted to be the most competitive Elite League season since it began in 2003.