Batch, Bowns To Return For Devils, New Goalie Next?

By Matthew Burgess

The Cardiff Devils continue to finalise their roster for next season with defenceman Josh Batch signing for a 12th year with the club, whilst Team GB goalie Ben Bowns also returns.

The British duo are the latest pieces to be announced as new head coach Pete Russell plots a bounceback season following an underwhelming 2022/23 campaign.

Batch enters the final year of a two-year deal he penned last summer whilst Bowns returned as the team’s starting goalie last season, following a spell in Austria and Slovakia.

Confirmation of their places in next season’s team takes the number of officially announced players up to 11. Russell’s final roster is expected to carry around 21 players, leaving plenty of speculation as to who will fill those remaining spots.

Just three of the confirmed signings are new signings but there will be at least one further new arrival in Cardiff Bay, with the club seeking a second goaltender following Taran Kozun’s departure to Coventry Blaze.

According to the reputable Twitter account UK Ice Hockey Rumours, Canadian Callum Booth could be brought in to push Bowns for a starting spot next season.

The Montreal-born 26-year-old is currently a free agent and has had a well travelled career that has seen him play most of his hockey in the ECHL (90 games played) and AHL (19 games played) after being drafted in the fourth round by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2015.

Booth has bounced around a number of clubs, starting last season with the Coachella Valley Firebirds in the AHL before dropping back into the ECHL with the Kansas City Mavericks.

He completed the season with German DEL side Lowen Frankfurt, where he played a single game.

Booth likely came to Russell’s attention when he was coaching in Germany last season and the Devils coach will feel he and goaltending coach Euan King can get the best out of the goaltender, who has only played 25 games in the past three seasons.

Russell has given his backing to returning Batch, who believes he can help the veteran defenceman get back to his best.

Batch iced in all 74 games for the Devils across all competitions last season, but received criticism from some sections as the team struggled for consistency.

Batch will have a new defensive partner alongside him this season following the exit of Mark Louis.

Playing predominantly alongside Louis on the Devils third defensive pairing, Batch iced in 54 Elite League games, scoring two goals and three assists, finishing with plus-minus 19.

Batch is already well-known to Russell, having worked together on Team GB duty and Russell believes there is still more to come from the 32-year-old.

“Josh played for me on numerous occasions with the national team, I know him well and what he is capable of,” he said.

“Josh is a huge body who firstly takes pride in keeping the puck out his own net. His game is suited to play next to a puck moving defenceman.

“He is a confidence guy, he needs to know his role and plays well within structure. He is really good on the penalty kill and takes pride in it. Josh is also very tough and has the ability to stand up for himself and his teammates when required.

“My job is to fill Josh with confidence and trust him, and we will see Batchy playing with a lot of bite in his game. I am really looking forward to working with him daily this season.”

Featured image: James Assinder

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