Building the Herd – Miroslav Vantroba

#18 Miroslav Vantroba

Position: Defence

Born: Spisska Nova Ves, Slovakia

Announced as signed: Bison season ticket night, 4th June

(c) 5 Hole Photography

(c) 5 Hole Photography

At the Bison season ticket night, Coach Doug Sheppard pulled three blockbuster re-signings out of the bag. The first one that we’ll be looking at is the return of imposing import defenceman, Miroslav Vantroba.

Now 35 (his birthday was on the 2nd June), Vantroba started hockey in his home town making his debut for Spisska Nova Ves’ first team at the age of 19.

After his debut season, Vantroba spent the majority of the next 6 years with HC Kosice in the Slovak Extraliga. Bar one season in the Czech top flight with Karlovy Vary, Vantroba was ever present on the Koscie blueline making 280 appearances. Early into the 2005/06 season, Vantroba moved to his next mainstay club, MHC Martin where he played until 2009 in 185 regular season contests and faced the perils of relegation playoffs, the exhilaration of playoff hockey and earned a call up to the Slovakian national side.

At the start of 2009/10, Miro moved to Banska Bystrica where he spent 2 seasons before a single season with Zvolen and a 2012/13 campaign split between his hometown Spisska and HK Nitra.

It was after this storied career of over 700 appearances in Slovakia and the Czech Republic that Doug Sheppard came calling for Vantroba, reportedly fighting off Elite League clubs for his signature. Sheppard, who admitted at season ticket night that he’d never seen Vantroba play and had only looked at him on paper, signed the veteran blueliner to add quality, experience and depth to the Bison blueline and he didn’t disappoint. Vantroba’s first campaign saw him widely lauded as one of the league’s finest defencemen en route to a 32 assist, 40 point campaign in Basingstoke alongside scoring (what was for him) an uncharacteristic goal in the EPL playoff semi final against Guildford where he dangled around a defenceman in the slot before backhanding the puck home.

Vantroba was the last player announced last night but I’m doing him first because I’m allowed to be contrary and occasionally like working backwards coupled with the fact that one of the signings has some added extras that bare focussing on so we’ll build up to that.

Make no mistake either, Vantroba is a very good re-signing. There’s an argument that some make that a lot of imports are interchangeable at EPL level and whoever you sign will be of a good standard so as long as they fit in, you’re set. That argument has some credence if you’re building the roster completely from scratch or changing direction but after a really successful season and the way the Bison roster was put together, high quality returnees in all positions are important.

Whilst the defence changes somewhat with the departure of Zach Sullivan, another player who Dean Skinns can trust in front of him and that the forwards can trust on the backend is important. Vantroba is not one for making silly errors and has that air of calmness and confidence that is always really important with some of the younger roster members the Bison have.

Vantroba got a lot of plaudits for his stickhandling quality and his control on the puck, rightly so, but a lot of people overlook just how good the offensive side of his game is and that’s partly due to how he plays and the one thing that sets him apart from other EPL import defencemen.

People seem to see the import defencemen at this level as generally being in one of two moulds; totally stay at home/shut down guys or the archetypical offensive defenceman. They will either be that secure guy on the backend who doesn’t score many points but will have a big shot or the defenceman with speed who will join the rush and pinch in to get high points totals. Miroslav however, appears to straddle the line between the two. He doesn’t posses a howitzer of a shot but it’s hard and accurate. He doesn’t join the rush all the time but picks his spots and joins when it makes sense so he won’t be miles out of position. 32 assists don’t magic themselves out of thin air and it’s this balanced game that Miro plays that allow him to be a Jack of all trades but luckily not a master of none. Where other players in the league will get more plaudits and be lauded as the best as a result of playing a more obvious style, Vantroba is arguably of a similar quality to players like Mindy Kieras, Lukas Zatopek and the like but his skills are more evenly distributed across all the facets of the game.

As the core of a trophy winning side is clearly being kept together as much as possible, the Bison being able to keep someone of Miroslav’s quality was vital but also achievable. A one year contract for a highly skilled, 35 year old defenceman is a sensible bit of business for both parties and one that should hopefully be as fruitful as the first time around.

Welcome back Miro; Radi by sme viac rovnaký, prosím.

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