Tyson Strachan is the key player in Cardiff Devils quest for Elite League trophies.
The big defenceman from Saskatchewan has a cool composure and presence on the ice which makes him crucial for ambitious Devils.
Devils play Sheffield Steelers away in a Challenge Cup semi-final first leg tie on Wednesday and Strachan will patrol the blue line with an efficiency which makes him a massive plus for the team.
Joey Martin, Patrick Asselin, Layne Ulmer and more are massive attacking players for the Welsh club, while Strachan has added an extra dimension to the team.
“Strachs is so consistent, so solid, so smart,” says head coach Andrew Lord. “His stick detail and the way he reads game really separates him.
“Watch his shifts and you can see why he played in the NHL. He is smart and has a hockey IQ which is off the charts.
“His work on the penalty kill is huge for us, while he is starting to make more plays. Back home Strachs was maybe down the line-up a little and coaches wanted him to keep it simple.
“Here we want him to play a bit more and he is starting to do that. His skill set is excellent, he has good hands, moves well, has a good shot and a vision which allows him to make plays.
“HIs partner on D, Bryce Reddick, is huge for us as well. Bryce has an amazing motor on him, he’s smart and makes a good first pass.
“He jumps into the play a lot as well. They are a really good combination for us.”
Strachan made 186 NHL appearances, playing for St Louis Blues, Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild, earning 200 penalty minutes along the way.
Devils follow Wednesday’s cup trip to Sheffield by flying to Belfast Giants for back-to-back Elite League matches on Friday and Saturday.
They are still in the hunt for all four domestic trophies and their next home match is against Sheffield in the second leg of their cup clash.
“We’ve worked so hard to get to this point,” said Lord.”We have to enjoy it. The unknown, the chance of losing. It’s a situation we must relish.
“Devils fans are huge. They get behind the team and there are times when you can feel a surge on the bench when the atmosphere builds. That’s critical for the boys.”