Filling in LeBlancs as Flyers build new team

Peter LeBlanc, signed for Fife Flyers season 2017-18 (Pic: Team Shred Photography)
Peter LeBlanc, signed for Fife Flyers season 2017-18 (Pic: Team Shred Photography)

With new signings and returning players, Fife Flyers’ roster for the 2017-18 season is gradually taking shape.

The work behind the scenes across the summer months is starting to pay off – and the fans can begin to see glimpses of what lies ahead when the action starts in September.

Jeff Hutchins, assistant coach, Fife Flyers (Pic: Fife Flyers)

Jeff Hutchins, assistant coach, Fife Flyers (Pic: Fife Flyers)

Peter LeBlanc became the first of a batch of new skaters to be unveiled this week, while Chris Wands’ resigning marked the start of the home-based pack taking shape.

And there should be more announcements in the coming days as Flyers’ finalise the paperwork on more of their targets.

While the team building continues, the coaching staff are happy with who they have, and who they are looking at bringing into the club for Flyers’ seventh season in the EIHL.

“We have been busy all summer, ‘‘ said Jeff Hutchins, assistant coach.,

“The strength of the £ is certainly impacting on everyone’s budgets – it’s interesting that while you are seeing signings, across the league, no-one has a full roster yet.”

The capture of LeBlanc looks like being a smart bit of business by Fife.

His name stayed off the radar of the summer rumour mill, and was well received by fans.

The 29-year-old brings a rock solid hockey CV to the club after playing in the AHL, ECHL and making his debut in the NHL.

LeBlanc joins Flyers from the ECHL where he skated last season with Cincinnati Cyclones and then Manchester Monarchs.

A native of Hamilton, Ontario – home town of former Fife coach, Mike Fedorko – he began his career playing junior hockey with the Hamilton Red Wings.

He was a seventh round draft pick by Chicago Blackhawks in the 2006 NHL draft, but opted instead to go to University of New Hampshire where he enjoyed a good four-year career.

The Chicago connection then took him to their AHL affiliate team, Rockford Ice Dogs for season 2010-11, where he iced in 57 games before being sent down to the Toledo Walleye for 22 games in the ECHL.

LeBlanc made a quick return to the AHL, firstly with the Ice Dogs and then, having been re-signed by Washington Capitals on a one-year, two-way contract, the Hershey Bears.

LeBlanc was 26 years old when he was called up by the Caps to play in the NHL.

He played against Tampa Bay Lightning in the final game of that season – he warmed up next to one of the game’s greats, Alex Ovechkin, and got a regular shift in a 1-0 shoot-out defeat.

The following season LeBlanc went from North America to Scandinavia, signing for Rögle BK in the Swedish Allsvenskan, before moving on to the Finish Liiga with Hämeenlinnan Pallokerho for the 2015/16 season.

He returned to Canada last season where he played with the Cyclones in the ECHL, finishing off with a move to Manchester Monarchs.

The UK is new territory for him, but he has been in conversation with the coaching team for some time to get an idea of what lies ahead.

Added Hutchins: ‘‘We are really luck to get him.

‘‘I’ve had some good chats with him on our plans and also what he wants to get out of the season.

“He ticks a lot of boxes for us as a coaching staff. He has played in some of the best leagues in the world and excelled.

“We feel his experience and skill set will provide us with offence while being positionally reliable in our own end.”

Le Blanc is looking forward to making his debut in Kirkcaldy.

He said: ‘‘I have never been to Scotland before, but everything I have heard about the country, from people who have travelled or lived there, seem to love it.

“Hockey wise, I am looking to come in and provide offence both creating and finishing plays in order to do my part being on a winning team.’’

LeBlanc joins returnees Shayne Stockton – back after injury cut his season short in 2016-17 - and defenceman Russ Moyer, plus British blueliner, Chris Wands.

The long-serving defencman, who made his debut back in 2004, has developed into one of the club’s most reliable players.

He stepped up to the plate during Flyers’ injury problems, soaked up signicant ice time, and held his spot in the roster.

Now heading to his 14th season, Wands was named British Player of the Year in 2016-17, and returns for his 14th season.

Hutchins hailed him as ‘‘a model professional,’’

He added: ‘‘Chris never complained about his ice time and when he got his opportunity he embraced it.

“He did a good job keeping things simple and it showed. Our confidence grew in playing him regularly and with more opportunities he upped his game and provided a couple of memorable moments for the organisation and fans.”

The EIHL’s fixture meeting also took place recently – it is one of the key dates of the summer recess – and the schedules should be made available in the near future once clubs complete any tweaks to their proposed dates.