Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Giants snap up former NHL defenceman Matt Pelech

New Belfast Giants defenceman Matt Pelech
New Belfast Giants defenceman Matt Pelech
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

The Belfast Giants have signed former Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks defenceman Matt Pelech for the upcoming Elite League season.

The 31-year-old joins from Austrian side Villacher SV and becomes the Giants' fifth new arrival ahead of the new campaign.

Pelech is a former first round pick from the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, selected 26th overall by the Flames after a promising junior career with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL.

The Toronto native made just five appearances in Calgary, where he was a team-mate of former Belfast Giants d-man Jim Vandermeer, before going on to make eight more appearances at the top level with San Jose.

During his time in North America, Pelech spent most of his time in the minors, making 425 AHL appearances between the Quad City Flames, Abbotsford Heat, Worcester Sharks and Rochester Americans.

In 2015, the physical defenceman made the decision to move to Europe, which led to two spells in Germany - with Schwenninger Wild Wings and ERC Ingolstadt - and two years in Austria with Graz 99ers and Villacher.

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New Belfast Giants signing Matt Pelech in action for NHL side the San Jose Sharks (Rocky Widner/Getty Images)

A stay-at-home defenceman, Pelech has never been a big points scorer but, at 6'4" and 236lbs, will instead be relied upon to be a reliable and intimidating presence on the Giants' blue line this season.

Not afraid to stick up for his team-mates either, Pelech's career has seen him used as a fighter at all levels, which led to him being the most penalized player both years he was in the EBEL, averaging 2.9 and 2.95 penalty minutes per game in each season respectively.

The experienced d-man also has plenty of leadership experience having been alternate captain with both Worcester and in Schwenninger, and will likely be asked to play a similar role in Belfast.

He joins a blue line corps that already has British duo Mark Garside and Paul Swindlehurst signed up, as well as Curtis Leonard, who is a former team-mate of Pelech's from Rochester.

Giants head coach Adam Keefe commented: "Matt is a natural leader who is excited to be a part of the defence of the Elite League and Challenge Cup championships. He will bring quality and toughness to our blueline as well as experience to the locker room.

"Giants fans are going to love watching Matt in action."

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