(for you youngsters, that title was a 90’s dance music reference. Ask your parents).
Anyway, Coventry have joined the NHL Player poker game, seeing Nottingham’s Anthony Stewart, Braehead’s Drew Miller and Sheffield’s Tom Sestito and raising them Anaheim forward Matt Beleskey as their entry.
Amusingly, the major reaction among most Elite League fans to Beleskey’s signing has been “who?”, just like all the other NHLers. Which shows a) that a lot of UK hockey fans don’t look outside their own backyards and b) clearly there aren’t that many people who’ll stay up til 6am watching the Pacific Division.
Luckily for you, I do. Curse of having a soft-spot for the SJ Sharks.
Anyway, for those of you that don’t, here’s a scouting report on the 6′, 204lb 24-year-old from Midland, Ontario.
Beleskey’s a left wing. He plays primarily on the Ducks fourth line, spending time with fellow youngsters Brandon McMillan and Nick Palmieri as his linemates last season, although the Ducks were in flux last season so he got moved around a bit. For an NHLer his skating isn’t brilliant, although it’ll be more than enough to keep up with EIHL play.
He’s an energy forward in the NHL-an agitator who will buzz around the ice at speed generally making a bloody big nuisance of himself. At 6′ and 204lbs he’s around average for an NHL forward, but is strong if a little inelegant on his skates and, as this clip shows, has a decent shot on him:
However, as is expected of an agitator, he’s more than willing to drop the gloves if challenged:
He has been pigeonholed as something of a grinder in the NHL, but he can do more, as evidenced by his prolific junior career for the Ontario Hockey League’s Belleville Bulls, a team which he captained and led to the Memorial Cup Finals in his final OHL season in 2007/8, scoring 49 goals and 90 points in 62 regular season games and a further 12+21 in the playoffs.
Drafted by the Ducks in the sixth round, he spent his first pro season on the second line of the AHL’s Iowa Chops, scoring 35 points and making his NHL debut with the Ducks on Jan 9th, 2008 against Tampa Bay at the Honda Center, before playing his only other NHL game of that season two days later.
In his second season, Beleskey bounced around between the Syracuse Crunch, Toronto Marlies and the Ducks, before managing to stick with the big club and playing 60 games. His first NHL point came against the LA Kings on Dec 5th 2009 and first NHL goal was scored against the Detroit Red Wings on Jan 9th 2010 as he averaged around 12 minutes of icetime that season, with three of his eleven goals being game winners.
The last two seasons have seen Beleskey’s production tail off a little as he’s settled into more of a grinding role-he was sent down to the AHL again in 2010/11 where he produced nicely for Syracuse, and scored 3 goals in 70 games as the Ducks struggled in 2012.
He normally wears the number 39, and has played a total of 167 NHL games in his career.
He could fit in anywhere on the Blaze lineup, with many expecting him to take a place on the left alongside the Leeb brothers-with an up-and-down style of play very similar to Dustin Cameron he’d be an ideal fit there and allow Sam Smith and Gerome Giudice to strengthen the third line. Expect him to be used both on the powerplay as a presence in front of net and on the penalty kill, as his workrate is exceptional.
Matt makes his debut against Nottingham this coming Sunday, so will be thrown right into the cauldron that is a Blaze-Panthers battle…however, with more than enough experience of the feisty California derbies between the Ducks, Kings and Sharks he should be able to handle it, you’d think. He’ll come up against the Panthers’ own NHLer Anthony Stewart.