The Belfast Giants have made a major acquisition ahead of the new season after they confirmed they have re-signed last season’s leading points scorer Scott Conway for the 2022-23 campaign.
The Great Britain centre will be joined in the line-up next season by his international team-mate Jackson Whistle, who will share netminding duties with new acquisition Peyton Jones for their Elite League and Challenge Cup title defences.
But bringing back Conway for a second season in teal is a huge transfer coup for the Giants given the forward was in significant demand after a sensational 2021/22 campaign, the 27-year-old breaking the 100-point barrier.
Only J.J. Piccinich bettered his goal tally of 41 – the American beating him by two – but nobody produced more assists (60) than the Basingstoke native on his way to 101 points in 67 games and the Giants will hope they get a similar return this year.
Fans will never forget that League-winning shoot-out goal against the Sheffield Steelers back in April, one of many crucial goals he scored throughout the season, and the former Penn State man will be feared by defences across the League once again.
With Piccinich departing for Norway next season, getting Conway back became a crucial piece of off-season business for the Giants and will likely see him reunited with captain David Goodwin on the top line again after the two combined so well.
His form with Belfast saw Conway called up to the GB squad for the World Championships in May, picking up two assists in their seven games, and he will hope to replicate that kind of scoring prowess when he laces up the skates at the SSE Arena again.
Goodwin will also have another reunion with new netminder Jones, the pair team-mates at Penn State University for the 2016-17 campaign, as the Pennsylvania native joins the Giants from ECHL side Utah Grizzlies.
Jones will have big shoes to fill, the 26-year-old replacing the retiring Tyler Beskorowany on the roster, however he comes with an impressive college CV that has clearly caught the eye of head coach Adam Keefe and head of hockey operations Steve Thornton.
An All-Rookie in his first season with Penn State in 2016-17, Jones led the team to the B1G Conference title as he was named Tournament MVP on their way to lifting the trophy and got an honourable mention to the All-Star Team.
He repeated that honourable mention in his final season with the Nittany Lions in 2019-20, playing to a .919 save percentage and 2.60 goals against average, helping the college win the B1G regular season title.
Jones has split the last two seasons between the Grizzlies and the AHL’s Colorado Eagles – keeping a .904 save percentage in 32 games with the Grizzlies – but makes the jump to Europe for the first time with the Giants, where he will look to carry on the excellent work that Beskorowany did with the team last season.
He will be ably assisted by GB international Whistle, who returns for a fourth season with the Giants and will likely be tasked with more of a workload after a very impressive 2021-22 campaign.
The goaltender, who is the son of former Giants head coach Dave Whistle, was superb any time he was called upon in relief of Beskorowany, playing to a .918 save percentage and 2.21 goals against average on their way to the double success, and that should earn him some more starts in big games this time around.
The 27-year-old also saw more game time with GB over the summer at the World Championships, making two appearances and keeping a .930 save percentage and a 2.40 GAA, and if he can continue that form then the Giants will have a very tough partnership to beat between the sticks.