20th Sep, 2018

Coventry Blaze bring in Wiikman to replace Nastiuk

Craig Gibbons 17th Aug, 2018

HEAD coach Danny Stewart has acted fast to bring in 33-year-old import Miika Wiikman for the upcoming Elite League campaign after it was revealed Canadian netminder Kevin Nastiuk was unable to return to Coventry Blaze.

The Swedish-born, Finnish dual citizen spent last season with rivals Milton Keynes Lightning, icing 42 times in a goaltending tandem with new Coventry back-up Jordan Hedley.

Before then, Wiikman helped the Nottingham Panthers to a Challenge Cup and play-off double in 2015/16, beating Blaze in that final, and in 2017, with another Coventry newcomer, Alex Nikiforuk, he lifted the IIHF Continental Cup, being named goaltender of the tournament.

Prior to moving to the Elite League in 2015, Wiikman gained significant experience in the Finnish SM-liiga, winning the Championship, as well as being named playoff MVP with HPK in 2005/06.

Aside from Finland, his impressive CV boats time in Slovakia and the American Hockey League with Hartford Wolf Pack and San Antonio Rampage.

After signing an entry-level contract with the New York Rangers in 2008, he also appeared in a number of NHL exhibition games.

In addition to Wiikman’s club success, he has proudly represented the Finnish national team and the Swedish national junior team.

Stewart said: “In light of Kevin informing us that he would be unable to return, we moved quickly to find a suitable replacement.

“Miika is a tremendous goaltender and we feel very fortunate to have come to an agreement with him for next season, especially at this late stage in the summer.

“He brings us a wealth of experience, knowledge of the league, and in my opinion, is a top calibre goalie at this level.

“He has won trophies during his time in the Elite League and is a proven winner.”

Nastiuk is unable to return to Blaze due to an ongoing medical issue.

The 6ft 1ins goalie made a total of 61 Elite League competition appearances for the club over 2017/18, being named Best Defensive Player, Players’ Player of the Season and Coaches Player of the Year.

Prior to his impressive Elite League season, Nastiuk was a draft pick of the NHL’s Carolina Huricanes and won back-to-back DEL Championships as part of Germany’s Eisbären Berlin.

Nastiuk said: “It’s with much sadness that I won’t be able to return to Coventry for a second season.

“I really enjoyed my first year in the league, and want to thank the great fans, my teammates and the club for making me feel so welcome.

“I wish the team and organisation every success for the coming season.”

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