Mike Forney capture a statement of intent by Belfast Giants
Steve Thornton has been rewarded for his persistence as the Belfast Giants coach pulled off a major coup by snatching one of his title rival's star players.
Mike Forney was the second highest scorer in the Elite League last season as the Sheffield Steelers marched to the title, but next campaign he will be playing for the Belfast Giants.
Naturally, new Steelers coach Paul Thompson wanted to keep Forney in Sheffield, but the player turned down a fresh offer from the club last week to sign for the Giants after being pursued by Thornton for the last few weeks.
"We made an approach to Forney and I stayed on top of the situation," Thornton revealed.
"I followed it up and now it's paid off. We really liked what we saw last season, he's a game breaker and the kind of guy we'd have liked to have had on our team."
Capturing the 27-year-old is a huge move for Thornton as he strives to assemble a team capable of mounting a stronger title challenge next season.
Forney rattled in a total of 43 goals in 69 games in all competitions last season. Only his ex-Steelers team-mate Mattieu Roy found the net more times.
Having celebrated his 27th birthday just last week, the Minnesota native is approaching the prime of his career and he also knows how to score goals at the Odyssey Arena.
Forney netted twice as the Giants beat the Steelers on penalties last November and he scored on another visit to Belfast in February - although he struck against most teams in a prolific year.
"He was one of the best players in the league last season, if not the best player," said Thornton.
"We lost way too many one-goal games and other teams we just weren't able to kill off because we didn't have enough scoring power and I'm signing players with the intention of remedying that.
"With a guy like Mike Forney in the team it can tip the balance in our favour and that's why we went after him."
Forney was an NHL draft pick by the Atlanta Thrashers, now the Winnipeg Jets, in 2006, but never made it as far as 'The Show' and instead was given his professional break by the Gwinnett Gladiators in the East Coast Hockey League.
It was there that he first linked up with his new Belfast Giants team-mate Chris Higgins and Thornton is expected to reunite them on the same line when the season starts in September.
Thornton also revealed that he has missed out on a couple of top end defenceman and that contract offers have been made to two more players.
"I am setting my sights high when it comes to the players that I am going after," said Thornton.
"In those circumstances and at this stage of the summer I expect to get rejected, possibly more times that I get offers accepted, but I am happy with that because we get some very good players that way.
"We've done some good business early and it's important to do that because other teams in the league are recruiting well - Coventry and Cardiff are going to be good and Nottingham and Sheffield are always strong.
"Hopefully when it comes to July and August I only have a couple of spots to fill."
The signing of Forney means that Thornton now has 11 players confirmed for next season.
Goaltenders Stephen Murphy and Adam Dickson are back, Matt Nickerson will join Jeff Mason in the defence and forwards Jonathan Boxill and Higgins have been recruited from the Nottingham Panthers to go alongside Mark Garside, Colin Shields, Darryl Lloyd, Craig Peacock and Adam Keefe.