Belfast Telegraph

Keefe eager to embrace new EIHL rules in assembling Giants roster

Belfast Giants head coach Adam Keefe (William Cherry/Presseye)
Belfast Giants head coach Adam Keefe (William Cherry/Presseye)
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Belfast Giants head coach Adam Keefe has welcomed the new Elite League roster changes despite admitting it will make assembling his team for next season that bit more challenging.

The EIHL revealed that, from next season, the number of imports a team will be allowed to sign has been decreased to 13 in favour of playing more young, British players.

If teams are to ice four full lines next season then they will have to include three British players 25-years-old or under on their game day roster.

That means the Giants will have to dip into the market next summer as currently their roster only contains one British player under-25, while they are also likely to carry no more than one spare import.

On top of that, a new rule restricts teams to 18 imports in one season, putting a premium on getting off-season recruitment right.

While that is something to worry about down the line, with teams still getting to grips with what they have to work with this season let alone next, Keefe does admit it has made the off-season a lot more interesting.

"It certainly changes the way you look at your lineup for the future. And it changes the way you recruit as well. It puts a bit more importance on making sure you have your British contingency in place," says Keefe.

"I recognise that they’ve moved it up to 25 and under, so that helps us out a bit with Hooky (winger Lewis Hook) still being 23.

"To be honest with you, I haven’t really put a whole lot of thought into it yet. But it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out in the future."

While for the next couple of seasons it will make recruitment interesting for the Giants as they will have to go elsewhere for their British talent, there are hopes that the new laws will provide incentive to some of the young, local players to make the step up.

In particular, there's hopes that a quartet of young Northern Irish players could be future Giants given their recent successes for the Junior Giants.

Carter Hamill, Mack Stewart and Cameron Hamill are three of the most promising forwards in the system, while Kell Beattie - who helps out Giants equipment manager Jason 'Taff' Ellery - is an up-and-coming defenceman.

While the four will not make an impact on the Giants for the next few years while they continue developing - all of them are just 15-years-old - there's hope that they can become regular contributors if they make the step up.

"Any young, local guys we can bring in and make a part of this only makes us better. As an organisation, we want to have local guys here and playing for the crest," adds Keefe.

"Hopefully those guys can develop and end up here in the future. They’re still pretty young, though, and they may have school aspirations or different career paths. We’ll keep an eye on them for sure."

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