Fife Flyers’ summer addition Sam Jones is hoping to prove he can cut it in the Elite League after making the move from Swindon Wildcats.
The 21-year-old English-born defenceman got his first taste of life in a Flyers jersey at the weekend in the pre-season double header against Herlev Eagles.
Jones looked the part, showing himself to be an assured skater and puck-handler, but he admits it will take time to adjust to the step up from the NIHL South.
“It took me a little bit to get used to it,” he said, reflecting on the weekend.
“The speed is a bit different to last year and I had to adjust how I played, but I thought the team did well, and I found my feet by the end of the weekend.”
Jones was a star player in Swindon last year, making his mark as the league’s top-scoring D-man with 15 goals, having originally started his junior career as a forward.
“I switched to D when I was 16, so there are still some things I need to tweak on the defensive end,” he said.
“Offensively, I think I’m fairly strong, but moving up to this league it’s something I need to keep working on.”
A move to Fife was only one of several option Jones had over the summer, but he was convinced to sign following a conversation with assistant coach Jeff Hutchins.
“I said at the start of last year that I wanted to move to the Elite League by the end of the year,” he reflected.
“After the season my coach back there, Aaron Nell, was helping me out a lot, looking around at teams and we had a couple of options.
“Fife came up, and it sounded like I was going to get an opportunity here, which you don’t get sometimes.
“British guys can be on the bench a lot of the time, but Jeff sounded really good on the phone.
“He said they wanted another D-man that could come in and play regular minutes, and he explained about the stability of the club, how it is known for treating it’s players well, and not worrying about anything randomly happening.
“I figured I would get my shot here.”
Jones, however, is aware that with 14 imports on the roster, he will have to earn his spot on the ice.
“I’m at the stage just now of trying to earn that trust from Jeff and Todd and work my way into line-up as much as I can,” he said.
“That might mean taking a step back and really focusing on how I play defensively, because as soon as I make a mistake at this level it will cost us a goal, whereas last year I might’ve been able to catch myself.
“I just need to make sure I play solid defence first, and then offensive second, which is an adjustment from what I’m used to.”
Having moved to Canada at eight-years-old – evident by his North American accent – Jones counts himself fortunate to have been schooled in the Okanagan Hockey Academy.
“Those were the biggest years of my life,” he said.
“I got to play on a couple of very good junior teams at under 20 level.
“I was fortunate to be able to go over there and I don’t think I’d be here in the Elite League today if it wasn’t for having that opportunity to move over when I was young.
“We didn’t move over for hockey but it was a big side benefit.”
His aspiration is to represent Great Britain in the future, and he hopes his move into the EIHL can help him achieve his goal.
“For me it’s about ice time and getting noticed,” he said.
“I want to play GB one day, so the goal I’ve set myself is to hopefully get the opportunity to try out.
“Whether that’s for this year or years after is a different question.
“Right now, just taking it one day at a time – looking at did I do well enough in my last game, and what I can do better.”