Playing career might be over for Phantoms coach Koulikov

Slava Koulikov in action for Phantoms.
Slava Koulikov in action for Phantoms.
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Trophy-winning chief Slava Koulikov wants to create a conveyor belt of homegrown ice hockey talent.

The Phantoms player-boss quickly agreed a three-year contract extension with the club’s new owners, Dave and Jo Lane, after talks late last week.

He shares their vision for the continued development of local players through the junior ranks while also attempting to deliver further success at senior level following Phantoms triumph in the recent English Premier League Play-Offs.

“There are different options as to how clubs can work,” said Koulikov.

“Those with a lot of money can just go out and sign the best players at that time. Anyone coming through is a bonus to them.

“But we are in a position where we need to invest time into our junior system and that is why I have signed a longer contract than is normal in this sport.

“We need to create a cycle where we have young talent coming through regularly to feed into the senior teams, Islanders and Phantoms.

“That is a long process which will not happen overnight, but it is something which will benefit everyone.”

Koulikov insists that exceeding all expectations with a fourth-placed finish and play-off trophy glory last season will not put him and his players under added pressure.

The EPL is expected to be considerably stronger next season with the possible addition of at least one new team.

A relaxing of the rules regarding the number of imports permitted at Elite League level could also push more top British players down to the second tier.

Koulikov added: “We built a team for last season which did well. Winning the play-offs was a great achievement and now we have to ensure we do not let our levels drop.

“There is a lot of speculation about what might happen to the league this summer, but we will have to wait and see what becomes official.

“I don’t think the fact we won a trophy last season means we are under more pressure to do it again. If anything I think there is less pressure now.

“All the guys have experienced that wonderful feeling of winning in Coventry and they will all be desperate to sample it again.”

Koulikov has moved swiftly to tie down influential skipper James Ferrara on a two-year deal.

Classy defenceman Tom Norton and popular forward Will Weldon are also committed for 2015-16 as part of the two-year contracts they penned last summer.

But Koulikov is considering whether or not to continue his own playing career.

He has been an influential figure on the ice as well as off it during his 18 months at the club.

But he celebrates his 37th birthday this year and could opt to hang up his skates.

“I’m not a 25 year-old guy anymore and no-one can go playing for ever,” he continued. I really love playing the game but I also like coaching and there are a lot of factors I have to consider.”

Koulikov says it is also too early to confirm the make-up of his coaching team which featured his father Aleksandr and Lee Elias last season.