#?? Joshua Smith
Born: Frimley, Surrey
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 17th August
Basingstoke Bison head coach Doug Sheppard has sealed the deal and completed the 2017/18 roster with the capture of forward Joshua Smith from the Bracknell Bees.
19 year old Smith is a product of the ever prevalent Bracknell junior system and 2017/18 will be his first season of hockey away from the Hive.
After appearing for England in the Quebec International Peewee Tournament, Smith started with the under 16 Stingers in 2011/12 scoring 14 points in 9 games. It was the start of a very prolific scoring career in junior hockey for Smith as for the rest of his junior career he would regularly play for at least two teams within the Bracknell system.
The following season Smith split time between the under Stingers where he scored 52 points in 19 games and making his debut for the under 18 Drones where he tallied 13 goals and 23 points in 15 games.
The following year 2013/14 saw Smith ice for three Bracknell sides in the one campaign; he had another 50 point year with the Stingers, a 33 point campaign with the Drones as well as the national title and made his senior hockey debut for the Hornets scoring a goal and an assist in 8 games.
The following year saw another three team split as Smith was named alternate captain of the Drones with 21 points in 12 games which he combined with a double foray into senior hockey. Smith played 22 games each for the Hornets and Bees with 21 points at NIHL level and 1 goal and 1 assist in the EPL.
Those efforts were enough to earn Smith a full time Bees contract the last two seasons. Whilst financially the Bees have struggled and not challenged at the top half of the table, Smith carved himself a niche as a productive third line forward with 8 goals and 16 points in 15/16 and 6 goals and 12 points in 16/17 in a season where he was limited to 39 games.
Last season saw Josh appear for GB under 20s tallying 0 points and 2 penalty minutes in the 5 games.
So, it is done. The roster for the Bison’s assault on the NIHL is complete. Some people will ponder this as a last signing and wonder why the Bison didn’t arguably go out with a bigger bang but this is a very Doug Sheppard signing; a somewhat understated announcement of a hard working forward. The “big name” returnees were already announced and the Bison are never generally ones to hold onto big names they have signed for very long.
Instead the final member of the roster really does smack of the sort of side that Doug Sheppard tries to build. It’s a team that’s meant to be more than the sum of its parts. Sheppard signs guys to fit the style he wants the team to play, that will work with the group and will ultimately achieve the goals of winning silverware. Remember when Sheppard chose to sign Rene Jarolin over Frankie Bakrlik when both were on the market?
Josh Smith is a hard worker with a bit of attacking upside and for me, slips nicely onto the Bison’s 3rd line to start the campaign. I’ve already tried knocking together some basic line combinations on the backs of envelopes (jokes about line shuffling not withstanding) and at the moment I envisage on the wing of a third line with Dan Lackey clearing the way on the other wing and Jaroslav Cesky being the setup man. That requires both Smith and Lackey to have decent two way game because with all the will in the world, Jaroslav Cesky isn’t known for his two way play.
The other option on the wings is to stick Smith on a wing with Grant Rounding and a centre like Tomas Karpov for a real speed and scoring attacking threat. I lean towards the former of those predictions but Smith certainly has value in a variety of positions. I expect to see the odd bit of penalty killing from him as well.
The hope is that Smith finds someone who he can work with and add a bit of that scoring touch that he had in juniors to his game at a senior level. One thing that Doug Sheppard has always been good at is giving younger players a chance and responsibility. It’s happened more and more with Basingstoke trained youngsters but he’s never been afraid to look to players elsewhere to give that chance. We don’t need to rattle off the names again, they’re well known. Smith has an opportunity to be one of those players and to make his mark in a title challenging team. Now we know he’s the last addition, it’s time to get really excited.
Welcome to the Herd, Josh. Also thanks for being the token ginger now Ciaran has left.
#39 Jaroslav Cesky
Born: Praha, Czechia
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 10th August
Every now and then, Doug Sheppard throws a curveball into the mix when signing a Bison roster. With 2 players left to sign, Sheppard has announced that the second import on the team will see the return to Basingstoke of veteran Czech forward, Jaroslav Cesky.
39 year old Cesky is a veteran of British hockey having played in Britain since 2009 and has played EIHL, EPL and NIHL in his time in this country.
After a season in the American based USHL with the Dubuque Fighting Saints, Cesky won a scholarship in 2000 to Augsburg College in Minnesota, an NCAA division 3 hockey programme where he was one of the team’s star players. Cesky, who was made the captain in his final season with the Auggies, scored 140 points in 102 games and was the team’s leading scorer as captain in 2002/03.
After finishing his time at university, Cesky headed into the professional ranks in North America. After a season with Adirondack in the old United Hockey League, Cesky moved to the Central Hockey League and spent 2 and a half successful seasons with the Tulsa Oilers tallying over 120 points before a deadline deal trade to the Oklahoma City Blazers for a deep playoff run that sadly fell short. Cesky finished his CHL time with 161 points in 179 games.
After his run in Oklahoma was done, Cesky played his last season in North America with the Flint Generals of the IHL before moving back to Europe and Chamonix in France for the 2008/09 campaign.
It was in France that Cesky met fellow Czech national, Michal Pinc. The two signed for the Bracknell for 2009/10 and proceeded to set the EPIHL on fire. Cesky tallied 119 points and was the EPL player of the year whilst Pinc finished with 109 points.
Cesky and Pinc, along with linemate Nicky Watt, returned to Bracknell for a second season where Cesky scored 81 points before the trio moved en masse to Swindon where Cesky scored 64 points for the Wildcats.
Cesky moved alone to Shropshire to start 2012/13 to play for Telford but after 10 games in Shropshire he moved to Basingstoke in a straight swap for defenceman Tomas Fojtek. Cesky scored 48 points in 41 games for the Herd and helped the team to their first ever Coventry playoff weekend.
2013/14 was a mixed year for Cesky. He played the first half of the season in Peterborough, scoring 34 points in 29 games before being released. A brief spell in Manchester with the Phoenix then saw him spend 15 games in Edinburgh before finishing out the season with 12 games in Cardiff with the Devils.
With him being based in the south of England, Cesky stepped into the NIHL for the first time in 2014 as he joined Jeremy Cornish and the Wightlink Raiders. A popular player with the Ryde faithful, Cesky posted back to back 60 plus point seasons with the Raiders as well as winning the playoffs in 2015 and was a 2016 first team NIHL 1 South all-star.
Cesky returned to the Raiders to start last season but with the untimely demise of the Isle of Wight team, Cesky moved to the Oxford City Stars where he posted 31 points in 21 games to finish out the year.
In 2002 whilst back home in Prague, Cesky played a part in the apprehension of an individual in the Prague subway system who had killed one police officer and had injured another as well as a 74 year old bystander. Cesky was awarded the Czech Republic’s Medal for Heroism for his actions.
It’s easy to look at this signing and see what we think is Jaroslav Cesky. When people think of Jaroslav Cesky the hockey player, they only see the player who tore the league apart at Bracknell and Swindon. He’s the former EPIHL player of the year with a 119 point season. There seems to be no accounting for time or adaptation or slowing down and the part that they play in a hockey career.
The Bison have never been an old team in terms of age. There have always been experienced players but adding a 39 year old forward heading towards the end of his playing career seems an odd choice for Doug Sheppard.
However to do that is to not see the player or this roster in context. Jaroslav Cesky is no longer that player that you remember. He is half an inch slower, he isn’t the same as he was a decade ago. However the hockey brain is still there. It was a trait that Sheppard banked on with Rene Jarolin and he’s banking on it again in 2017/18.
Cesky has a lot of good qualities; a natural playmaker, with the right wingers around him he should prove a potent attacking force in terms of setup play and the occasional goal. What he doesn’t need to be that was expected of him at other clubs is that go-to guy. He doesn’t need to be the focal point of the attack any more.
That’s not to say that Cesky can coast in any way, Doug Sheppard won’t allow that, but what it means is that he can play a bit of hockey and not need to be the guy. He doesn’t need to be playing 20-30 minutes a night and on all the powerplays and penalty kills. The British depth (and still one British forward to come remember) and Tomas Karpov allows Cesky to be a role player rather than being one of those players that needs to be used in every situation. He can an experienced hand, he can be that guy that younger players play with for a bit of guidance.
Many people are quick to turn their noses up at this signing by saying that Cesky’s old (he is for a hockey player), that he’s past it (still over a point per game for the most part) and that this is a desperation signing from the Bison.
The Herd have signed an experienced import with a proven track record for scoring that is based locally so they don’t have to house him and will be crucial depth rather than the spearhead of the scoring. I’m not sure what’s the problem with that given the makeup of this roster and the depth of talent and role players it has.
Welcome back, Jaro.
#9 Dan Lackey
Position: Utility (normally forward)
Born: Basingstoke, Hampshire
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 3rd August
As soon as we were caught up from our paternity leave, Thursday rolled around and Bison coach Doug Sheppard added to the roster for the 2017/18 season by announcing the return of Dan Lackey.
27 year old Lackey played his first full season for the Bison in 2016/17 after a storied career in junior and NIHL 2 hockey in his home town. Lackey played in 50 games scoring 2 goals and 4 assists for 6 points. He is also the reason that Sam Godfrey (then of Guildford) still has a headache.
Lackey is a true product of the Basingstoke system. His official stats on Elite Prospects go back to the NHL lockout season of 2004/05 when he split his time between the Bison u16s and u19s before progressing to playing under 19s (as it was then) full time in 2006/07.
After 06/07 there was a reorganising of the age groups under the EIHA structure and the under 19s became the under 18s for 2007/08. Lackey had a productive year with 7 goals and 12 points in 17 games at under 18 level as well as making his senior hockey debut in the old ENL with the Basingstoke Buffalo.
After those initial 11 games, Lackey was a stalwart of the Buffalo lineup. Usually playing on defence for the Blue Herd but able to play up front as well, Lackey was routinely in the scoring numbers for the Buffalo. Dan took the 2013/14 season out of hockey to travel but returned back and slotted straight back into the Buffalo line up including guesting for Solent Devils, his only game for a senior team outside of Basingstoke.
Lackey has a total of 160 games in all competitions for the Buffalo with a total of 162 points with the Buffalo making him one of the Blue Herd’s most productive players. His final season with the Buffalo in 2015/16 say him score 22 points in 9 games.
Lackey’s history with the Bison was sporadic until the last season. He made his debit for the Herd under Steve Moria in the 2009/10 season and returned the next year for 13 more games before then not appearing for the Herd till 2015/16 under Doug Sheppard. He tallied 3 assists in 16 games before earning a contract for the duration of the last campaign.
The other side that Lackey has appeared for regularly is the Southampton Spitfires university side for whom he played 6 seasons as student and alumni.
I had to have a wry chuckle when the Gazette mentioned adding more firepower when we added Dan Lackey. That’s not to disrespect Dan in any way but since his permanent addition to the Bison roster, Dan Lackey’s not been signed for his goalscoring prowess. He even admits in the Gazette piece that he’s not the most skilful of players but isn’t afraid to get into the corners and do the dirty work that others won’t or can’t do.
What we have to remember is that the dynamics have changed. It’s really easy (and I’m totally blaming baby brain for this even though I wasn’t the one giving birth) to forget that we’re not in the EPL any more. We’re in a 2 import NIHL where British guys who got a few minutes now have a chance to be playing big minutes.
I don’t think there’s any massive secret to how Dan Lackey will be used and it won’t be as Vanya Antonov’s wing man. What I really want to see is Dan Lackey really embrace the sort of role that Alan Lack and Joe Rand used to fill for the Herd. Yes, Lackey can shoot but he has the size and he has the strength. Park him in front of the net on as many set plays and powerplays as we possibly can. There are not many defencemen in the NIHL north or south that are going to easily move Dan Lackey if he’s on his game. That needs to be used. With the loss of Ciaran Long and Declan Balmer, that big shot to cause some havoc on the powerplay for Lackey to mop up but Antonov, Davies and Dan Scott will do an admirable job. We also learned from the Gazette piece that there’s one more British forward and one more import forward so if one of those has a cannon of a shot then that solves that issue.
Less flash, more crash; that’s probably the best way to describe what the Bison will get out of Dan Lackey. That’s what we need him for. Look at the forwards already signed, the Bison don’t massively need another flashy, skill guy but there was that slot still available for gritty depth who will do that bit of standing up for his team mates if required. The shift of leagues sees Dan have a real chance to carve out more of a niche for himself. I’m intrigued to see how this pans out.
Welcome back, Dan.
#94 Stuart Mogg
Born: Basingstoke Hampshire
Announced as signed: Season Ticket Night, 20th July
#7 Kurt Reynolds
Born: Basingstoke Hampshire
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 20th July
#?? Dean Skinns
Born: Basingstoke Hampshire
Announced as signed: Season Ticket Night, 20th July
That’s right, we’re totally cheating on this one.
#?? Paul Petts
Born: Gosport, Hampshire
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 14th July
Along with the return to Basingstoke of Hallam Wilson, Basingstoke coach Doug Sheppard announced a second player as joining on a combined Bison/Buffalo two way contract in the form of Paul Petts.
20 year old Petts, another product of the Junior Bison played both u16s and u18s in 2011/12 and had a slow start as he scored 2 points in 18 games for the under 16s in their relegation season with 3 points in 2 games for the under 18s.
The following season with the u16s in the 2nd division, Petts scored 26 goals and 63 points in 18 games and continued to impress at under 18 level as he followed up a 6 point season with 15 points in 12 games in 2013/14.
2014/15 saw Petts continue his impressive performances in junior hockey as he went over 2 points a game in under 18s with 34 points in 16 games as well as appearing in 11 games in the NIHL 2 South with the Buffalo, scoring 3 assists.
The last couple of seasons have seen Petts be a very busy player. In 2015/16 as well as playing under 20s in Basingstoke and NIHL 2 for the Buffalo, Petts made his NIHL 1 South debut for his hometown Solent Devils, appearing in 8 games and scoring 1 goal.
Last season Petts continued his three way split between the Devils, Buffalo and captaining the Bison under 20s, Petts was handed his EPL debut by Doug Sheppard on 22nd January as he and Kyle Goddard were added to the roster for the Herd’s 5-0 win over Bracknell.
Petts’ career totals sees him with 58 points in 44 games at under 18 level, 56 points in 26 games at under 20 level, 26 points in 34 games with the Buffalo and 2 points in 18 games with the Devils in NIHL 1.
Where I’d had the opportunity to at least see a bit more of Hallam Wilson, I’d heard the name Paul Petts but couldn’t really offer much of an opinion on his play. I can give an idea as to what the plan might be for him but what sort of a player is Paul Petts? I turned to Buffalo head coach and head coach of the Bison Junior system, Simon Beere to offer some insight.
“Paul has developed in the season to one of the best two way players for his age nationally and this is proven by finishing top points scorer in the 20s league by some distance. He started at Basingstoke from u12s from Solent and has shown great dedication to progressing through our junior system. Originally a winger but he has shown himself to be a very accomplished centre with great awareness in all zones and situations. I strongly believe he’s one of the best blue line to blue line forwards we’ve produced so I’m hoping it can show in the future in a Bison jersey”
As for how Petts is used when he gets into the lineup, it’s a case of use whatever ice time he gets 4th line minutes with the Bison are always hard to come by and they need to be used to maximum effect. Whilst he has a good scorer’s touch, do not expect massive points from Petts when he’s used on five on five situations. However do not write him off with it. An injury to a role player here or a trademark Doug Sheppard shuffling of the lines there and Petts could find himself getting a couple of extra minutes. Simon Beere has pointed out that Petts is a hard worker and that’s the key trait that Doug Sheppard looks for in any of his players. In fact, a hard working, two way player with a scoring edge sounds somewhat familiar to anyone who remembers how Sheppard played.
I don’t think we’re going to see everything that Petts has in his locker this season unless someone gets hurt for a sustained period so we need to take every opportunity to really take a look at him when we do. His coaches think a lot of him and think he can do the business. He’s been given the opportunity. All Paul Petts needs to do now is take it.
Welcome to the top table, Paul.
#?? Hallam Wilson
Born: Winchester, Hampshire
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 13th July
The Bison fans were treated to a two for one deal on young talent with this Thursday’s announcement. We start by looking at the player who spent last season in NIHL 1 South in Hallam Wilson who returns to the club on a two way deal with the Basingstoke Buffalo.
Bar a very brief stint at Bracknell, 19 year old Wilson played the rest of his junior hockey in Basingstoke with the Junior Bison. More of a goalscorer than a set up player, Wilson first played u16s hockey in 2011/12 when he scored 4 goals and an assist in 15 games as the u16s were relegated. The following season in u16s division two, Wilson played 17 games and scored an astronomical 67 goals and 99 points. He also made his under 18s debut scoring 6 goals and 12 points in 17 games.
Hallam made his senior debut in 2014 as he split his time between the Bison under 18s and the Buffalo. Wilson was made captain of the under 18 Bison and scored an impressive 33 points in 15 games. For the Buffalo, Wilson scored 2 goals and 8 assists in his first forays into adult hockey in NIHL 2 South.
Wilson continued the split between junior and senior hockey the next season as he started to make more of a mark on senior hockey. 10 games for the under 18s yielded 15 goals and 26 points and 13 games for the Buffalo saw Wilson add 11 goals and 20 points.
When the start of last season rolled around, Wilson had a choice. He could continue into the new under 20s league with the Bison or he could try his chances full time with the Buffalo or try something else. Whilst Wilson did appear in 2 games for the under 20s, the Winchester born forward spread his wings and headed into NIHL 1 for the first time with the Oxford City Stars. Wilson appeared in 25 games in yellow and blue scoring 9 goals and totalling 15 points, making him joint 9th in team scoring for the Stars as they finished 4th in the league before a disappointing playoff exit.
With the Stars dropping into NIHL2 in the reshuffle, Wilson chose to return to Basingstoke.
I get a feeling that today’s and tomorrow’s piece will have a slightly similar feel to them but of the two players signed today, they’re sort of at opposite ends of a very small spectrum. For players at the end of their junior career where they’ve mostly been playing in juniors, the demise of the EPL has come at an opportune time because the pathway has become much more direct. For younger players who were on the cusp of breaking into the EPL, its demise muddies the water somewhat as the new structure needs to even itself out in terms of its standard. This later option is where we find Hallam Wilson.
Wilson was at a point where if he wanted to press on, he needed to leave Basingstoke. The gap between the Buffalo in NIHL 2 South and the Bison in the EPL was a big one. For someone wanting to reach the next stage, there was that platform of NIHL 1 in the middle and Oxford offered the opportunity. Wilson was at the Stars at an opportune time as the organisation has become much more professionally run. Simon Anderson, the then coach, was one for giving opportunities and ice time to the younger players and for a first season at that level, 15 points in 25 games from an 18 year old is a pretty good return.
Hallam Wilson was always one of those names that was mentioned to me at games as a youngster to keep an eye on and it seems that we’re hopefully going to get a chance to have a really good look at him. Secondary scoring is something that this site has always made a point of emphasising and when used, if Wilson can get himself on the scoresheet then it potentially swings the balance between more of his games being in division 2 or being in division 1. For the time being, he’ll need to take whatever opportunity he’s given.
Welcome back, Hallam. We’ll be keeping an eye out.
#93 Dan Weller-Evans
Born: Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr, Cymru
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 6th July
Yep, we did an audio one for Dan last year but why speak about him when the chance came up to speak to him!
Photo thumbnail copyright of 5 Hole Photography