As the season approaches the announcements are going to get more regular and the excitement more tangible for some live spectator driven hockey in the Sapphire and around the country.
So tonight we have another two great returnees with growing reputations and skillsets and from the heart of the junior system showing the National League Raiders continued dedication to bringing our local youngsters through the ranks.
Firstly Raiders are delighted to welcome back 20 year old Callum Burnett for his sixth season Gold and Blue. Callum being the first player born in the 21st century to make a Raiders appearance and astonishing us all with so many seasons (and games) at such a tender age.
Defenceman Callum, showed he has fully recovered from the horrific injury he sustained against Slough Jets in November 2019, when he iced in all 12 Spring Cup games, scoring one goal against Sheffield Steeldogs.
Callum made his Raiders 1 debut soon after his 16th birthday, in an NIHL league game at Invicta in January 2017 (with a lot of applause) and to date has made 94 appearances for Raiders (ranked 84th in all time Raiders appearances), and scored two goals and five assists for seven points.
Before stepping up to play full time for the Raiders , Callum made 40 appearances for Raiders 2 in NIHL South 1, scoring 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points.
Callum started his junior career at Rom Valley Way but following the closure of Rom Valley Way, he moved to Slough Jets to progress through their junior ranks before moving to Chelmsford for season 2017/18 making 11 appearances for Chelmsford Under 18 Mohawks, scoring four goals and eight assists for 12 points.
Callum has represented Great Britain in the two Under 18 World Championships, picking up a winners gold medal in 2018. He made 13 appearances for Great Britain Under 16 in international tournaments and appeared for the England Under 19 team in their annual fixture against Scotland.
Callum is keen for the injury to be off the table for signing discussions showing he is moving on:-
“It is always a good feeling to come back from injury. This summer break has given me a chance to feel more confident and stronger after it too. I was grateful to be back from injury and playing hockey again. So I was very happy to be able to prove what I can do post injury and be ready to always play as well as be ready for the upcoming season.
“I’m really excited to get back to the hockey season. It looks like a busy year but that means lots of opportunity for good competition that we have all missed.
Sean Easton summarised the season hopes for Callum:-
“Callum is no stranger to Raiders but he has had a tough few years with a serious injury and of course the pandemic allowing us just the Spring Cup last season.
“Callum always looks after his fitness so we know he is going to arrive pre-season ready to go. Callum has good foot speed and likes to play a physical no-nonsense game. He needs to do the little things right to command a level of play to establish himself at National level, which could actually be a step up for all of us this season”
Welcome back Callum.
Our second announcement of the evening is another player with a bright future forecast as we welcome the return for what will be a first full league season with Raiders for 19 years old Tommy Huggett.
Tommy stepped up from Raiders Division 1 side to ice for Raiders in the Spring Cup scoring twice, against the Sheffield Steeldogs and then the Swindon Wildcats in his 12 appearances. Since making his Raiders debut aged 16 against Bracknell Bees in September 2018, Tommy has iced on 46 occasions for Raiders, scoring four goals and four assists for eight points despite relatively limited ice time in those games.
Tommy made the full time step up to the Raiders after a stellar season for Raiders 2 in NIHL South 1 in season 2019/20 where he won the NIHL South 1 Under 21 Player of the Year Award and being selected into the League All Star Team second line, having averaged almost two points per game with 63 points (25 goals and 38 assists) in 32 appearances. In two seasons for Raiders 2 Tommy made 59 appearances scoring 53 goals and 59 assists for 112 points, making him Raiders 2 all-time scoring leader.
With the closure of Rom Valley Way Tommy moved to Guildford where he was a member of the National Champions Firestars Under 16 team in 2014-15. Tommy then moved to Chelmsford where in three seasons in their junior club, Tommy made 71 appearances, scoring 144 goals and 70 assists for 214 points, averaging three points per game.
In 2020, due to COVID causing the Under 18 Junior World Championship to be cancelled denied Tommy the opportunity to wear the Great Britain shirt in a major tournament.
Tommy is keen to get a first full season under his belt and putting his improving game towards a successful Raiders season.
“Yeah it’s definitely a great feeling especially since I grew up watching the Raiders play and now being able to wear the same jersey is pretty special.
“This league is a lot different to Div 1 but I hope to make as much of an impact as I can. Putting some points on the board doing the Spring Cup was definitely a good feeling especially with some of the player that were playing against us during that competition.
“It’s my first proper season in the National League so i’m going to work as hard as I can on the ice and see what happens.”
Coach Sean Easton has high hopes for Tommy if he can translate his previous form to the National League;_
“Tommy has shown that he possesses a scoring touch and his stats through Juniors and NIHL1 suggest that he can be a prolific goal scorer once he finds his feet at National League level.
“His commitment to his development is second to none. For now his concentration needs to be to play the role he is given to a high standard and grow in confidence to play at this level.”
Welcome back Tommy. No pressure at all!