Canadian defenceman Sam Ruopp hopes he can be as big a hit in Belfast as former college team-mate Josh Roach was after signing for the Giants for the upcoming Elite League season.
The 25-year-old, who is a former fifth round NHL draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2015, has joined the Giants on a one-year deal from ECHL side Allen Americans, where he was the team-mate of another new Giants face Scott Conway.
Ruopp turned down a minor league professional deal in order to complete his studies at the University of Saskatchewan, where he was a team-mate of former Giants defencemen Roach, Kendall McFaull and Jesse Forsberg, all of whom played in Belfast over the last few seasons.
The one whom the Saskatchewan native would undoubtedly want to replicate the success of would be Roach, who was named in the EIHL’s All-Star First Team and lifted the league title and Challenge Cup in his one season at the SSE Arena, which earned him a big money move to Austria.
While he likely won’t play in the same role as Roach did when with Belfast, Ruopp admits it was the example of his ex-team-mates that led him to take the plunge and join the Giants.
“I’ve been in contact with Steve Thornton for a few years now. He touched base back when I was in university and I explained to him that I wanted to get my degree first before playing. Ever since then, every year, we’ve just been staying in contact,” said Ruopp, who is a dual British-Canadian national but will count as an import in the EIHL.
“A few players who I played on the Huskies with played in Belfast, so they kind of opened the door for me and for potential future players as well.
“I’m very, very excited to come to Belfast. I have my UK passport, yet I’ve never experienced the life over there.
“I’ve never been overseas. I’m looking forward to going back and seeing my mum’s old roots, and just to be in Belfast and experience the culture, the team and the professional life as well.”