Sheffield Steelers man compared with NHL Ottawa superstar Erik Karlsson

Ben O’Connor has received the ultimate accolade from his Sheffield Steelers coach.

Paul Thompson compared him with NHL superstar Erik Karlsson - and said he can do things players in the best league in the world cannot.

Ben O'Connor

Ben O'Connor

Thompson admits he is licking his lips at the prospect of coaching the slick skills of the GB blue liner who just loves roaming forward.

One team-mate last season described O’Connor as ‘high risk.’

But the coach said: “I’d go as far as saying what he does is the best in the League, regardless of what nationality he is.

“Erik Karlsson plays for the Ottawa Senators: they only pay him a sum of around seven or eight million pounds year because he does the things that Ben O’Connor does.

“The way to look at is if he does 10 things, he is going to ‘throw a pizza’ in of those 10 things.

“But you forget about the nine unbelievable plays makes prior to that.

“Ben changes a game. And he helps us win more games than cost us mistakes.”

Thompson revealed he had already discussed specific defensive responsibilities with the Durham-born 26-year old.

He envisaged: “We are winning 3-2 with two minutes to go, I put him out there: ‘Shut it down Ben, be mature, make the smart play, don’t make the Hollywood play at that point.’

“He is one hell of a player. And I am so happy he is on our team. I have been coaching in Sweden and Denmark with NHL talent and Ben O’Connor can do things that many offensive defencemen in the NHL couldn’t.

“He is a young kid, he’s hungry, he wants it.

“He’s a talent and again I think it is so easy to look at the decision he doesn’t do well in a game than the 150 that no-one else in the team can do.”

Thompson said he felt high risk was an incorrect description of the player.

“His rewards are far greater than high risk” he said.

O’Connor, in fact, was Sheffield’s fifth top points scorer last year - coming ahead of Great Britain team-mate Rob Dowd. Forty of O’Connor’s 49 points came as assists.

Only forwards Mike Forney and Mathieu Roy collected more assists than the former Coventry Blaze and Edinburgh Capitals man.

* Hull Stingrays have folded, the Elite League club have confirmed.

Owner Bobby McEwan had been in charge at Hull Arena for three years, with the team reaching the play-off finals weekend last season.

The 55-year-old Glaswegian, who had been involved with ice hockey in the city since 1988, had been working around the clock trying to find a new owner but admitted he was left with no other choice in making “the toughest decision” of his life.

McEwan added in a statement: “It is with great sadness I have to inform you that this is the end for Hull Stingrays.

“The loss of a major sponsor, increased operational costs, the introduction of ice-time charges as well as the shortage of fans attending our matches have left me with no other choice but to liquidate the club.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my three years in charge of the Stingrays - it was a dream come true for me. Sadly, that dream has now come to an end.”

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