The Belfast Giants have added to their forward ranks for the new season by bringing in wingers Darik Angeli and David Gilbert, with centre Tyler Soy returning for a second season with the club.
Angeli makes the move to the defending Elite League and Challenge Cup champions from ECHL side the Florida Everblades, while Gilbert jumps across the water after a season with French side Rouen.
Meanwhile, Soy is the 12th player announced to be returning from last year’s double-winning team, with the Canadian centre coming off a season where he scored 17 goals and 37 points in 68 games.
The 25-year-old British Columbia native scored a vital goal in the Challenge Cup Final, grabbing the Giants’ first as they fought back from 2-0 down to defeat the Cardiff Devils in overtime at the SSE Arena.
It was a hugely successful first season in Europe for Soy, who joined the Giants from the University of Alberta a year ago, and he is hoping to build on that as he returns to the Elite League again.
“I’m super excited to return to Belfast. Last year we had an incredible season – the group of guys was amazing, the city was amazing, everything about it was unreal. It made a lot of sense for me to come back to do it all again,” said Soy.
“Last year was a pretty successful run, winning two out of three trophies. This time, we want to make the treble happen and win all three.”
Colorado native Angeli will bring plenty of experience to the Giants after seven seasons in North America, split between the AHL and ECHL, and joins off the back of a Kelly Cup winning season with the Everblades.
The 31-year-old will play outside of North America for the first time with the Giants and will be called upon to bring some of the scoring he showcased last season with the Kansas City Mavericks and in Florida.
After starting the season with the Mavericks, where he wore an ‘A’ and scored 28 goals and 65 points in 56 games, he was traded to Florida where he helped lead them to the Kelly Cup in the Play-Offs.
Angeli arrives having racked up 118 goals and 305 points in 448 ECHL contests following a successful college career with Ohio State and will now test himself in Europe for the first time.
“’I believe I’m a big, fast, skilled forward. I think I’m a good locker room guy and I can bring a lot of tools to the game to help us win this season,” he said.
"I was speaking to Adam (Keefe) for a while, and how he spoke about the Giants hit all the boxes – especially the fans, and the Championship wins last year. I want to keep that winning tradition going and competing in the CHL (Champions Hockey League) influenced my decision too.”
Gilbert, meanwhile, will be the most experienced player on the Giants’ roster this season in terms of European experience having played in France, Hungary and the Czech Republic over the past six seasons.
A former seventh round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009, the 31-year-old arrives in Belfast after a season where he scored 33 goals and 59 points in 65 games with Rouen in the Ligue Magnus.
Gilbert also has experience with Bordeaux in the French top division, as well as with Fehérvár AV19 in the EBEL, while he spent three of his seasons in Europe with Czech side HC Motor České Budějovice, leading them to promotion to the top tier in 2020 and playing one season in the Extraliga.
The Quebec native spent seven seasons playing professional hockey in North America before jumping across the pond, splitting time between the ECHL and AHL after a prolific QMJHL spell with the Québec Remparts and Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
The Giants will certainly hope Gilbert can replicate his Champions Hockey League success with Rouen last season when he lines up in the competition again this season, the Canadian helping the Dragons reach the Quarter-Finals.
“Earlier in my career, I played centre a lot as I was responsible defensively and I was good on face off. Then, during my first year in Europe when I was playing in Bordeaux, the coach decided to put me on wing, and I saw my production offensively going up and I’ve played there ever since,” he explained.
“My strengths lie in my offensive skills, my shot, finding gaps in front of the opponent's net, and ability to score goals. I had a pretty good season last year at Rouen in terms of performance, so I'm going into this season in Belfast with the same mindset and I can’t wait to get started.”
Head coach Adam Keefe was pleased with his latest set of recruits as he looks to finalise his squad for the upcoming season.
“We are very happy to get Tyler Soy re-signed in Belfast this season. He brings a dynamic skill set to the team, and gives his all on the ice every time,” he praised. “A true team player and one of the nicest kids I’ve worked with. He scored some very important goals for us last year that helped bring us two trophies.
“Darik Angeli is 6’3” and he will add welcome size to our forward group. He skates well, has good vision and will be an offensive threat for us next season. He isn’t shy to use his big frame to get the job done as well. I think the Giants fan base will enjoy watching Darik.
“It’s safe to say that new signing David Gilbert is well-travelled in his hockey experience, having iced in an impressive suite of leagues across Canada, U.S, Czech Republic, France, and Hungary. This will be invaluable to our team, especially as we face some strong European sides this season.
"David has a dangerous shot that will give goalies a lot of problems this season. He can play on both sides of the puck and will be a reliable forward for us this season, offensively and defensively.
“I’m pleased with the roster we’ve built so far, as the start of the season approaches. I truly believe this group of players will do special things and honour the success we built last season. A mix of returning, and new players, with a range of skills and experiences will make for a winning combination on (and off) the ice in Belfast for 2022/23.”