The Cardiff Devils made their fifth signing announcement of the off-season yesterday when they confirmed that power forward Joey Haddad was back for his sixth season as a Devil. I thought it was time enough to look back at the first five signings, and see where the rest of the off-season will go.
The Goat is back. There’s not much more that needs to be said on this one. Martin is still one of the best forwards in the league, and is still the Devil’s best player. Coming off his first thirty goal season for the Devils, Martin will be centring the top-line for the Devils once again, and – barring any major problems – will become the highest regular season point scorer for the Devils in the Elite League era.
When Ben Blood left the Devils last October, I worried that someone so popular, on and off the ice, leaving would have a negative impact on performances. Weeks later Evan Mosey arrived and fans quickly forgot about the loss. Mosey is one of the best skaters for the Devils, and the fact he can play both Forward or Defence is a huge plus for Andrew Lord while building a roster for next season. With skill and speed, Mosey returning is a big positive for the Devils ahead of the Champions Hockey League too, and will be a massive asset in trying to get the Devils out of their group for the first time.
After another superb campaign for Mark Louis last season, it’s little surprise that the big defenceman is back for another year with the Devils. ‘Big Lou’ is a team first guy who will do anything for his team-mates, and is the epitome of what it means to be a Devil. When Louis returned after the summer last season, there seemed to be something different, his game had developed, his skating had improved, and after an injury shortened 2017/18, he was keen to get back to it. And my word did he! Thirteen points equalled his best total for the Devils, and the versatility to play with almost every other defenceman on the roster made Louis an integral part of the team. I could write and write about how good Louis is, but i won’t. He’s back, and that’s great.
It seemed to be a case of deja-vu all over again for Josh Batch this year. Another solid year, perhaps his best to date, and again he missed out on a place in the GB squad for the World Championships. Signed up for his ninth season with the team, in my opinion Batch needs to take another step forward this year, as I’m sure he will do. Playing both defence and forward, Batch is another versatile and useful player for the Devils, but different to Evan Mosey in that it takes slightly longer for him to fully adapt to one or the other. With time and some stability, Batch is another solid signing and will continue to be an important part of the Devils’ Brit core.
In my opinion Joey Haddad is one of the most under-rated Devils’ players at present. Everyone talked about the impact of Martin, Fournier, Linglet, and Bowns last year, and while those players are a huge part of the team, Haddad is just as capable, if not more so, of grabbing a game by the scruff of the neck, and dragging it into the Devils hands. November and December were a tough few months for the Devils last season, and when Haddad returned from injury, he took control and pulled the Devils through their troubles. Despite missing sixteen games, he still put up over thirty points, and – while it’s not exactly the most reliable stat to use – his plus/minus was +11 for the year, which is fantastic considering he played predominantly on the third line. I worried that the niggling injury he had last year may ruled out a return, but he’s back, and those puck-retention skills are too!
So where now for the Devils? There are certainly more returnees on the way, but what recruitment do they need to do now? To have a successful CHL campaign, in my opinion, what the Devils need is a star winger to join Joey Martin on the top line, a natural goal scorer who will put up a tonne of goals, and another solid stay-at-home defenceman to join the team’s d-core. This is the Devils best chance to advance to the knockout stages of the CHL, and anything less is a failure, but Andrew Lord has a great track record for recruitment so the Devils will surely be on the right track come August.
Pictures Courtesy of Dave Williams