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Milan off to hot start in Edinburgh

Whistler puckster finding groove in Scotland

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Garrett Milan and his Edinburgh Capitals are both looking for stronger hockey seasons in 2016-17.

Milan, a scorer who came up through the Whistler Winterhawks, played well for the most part, but roster rules on imported players led to him playing on three teams — two in Hungary's MOL Liga before landing in Scotland. The Capitals, meanwhile, won just 10 games last season in the British Elite Ice Hockey League.

Just four players were retained at year's end, with Milan being one of them, and he's rewarded the team for its faith in him with seven points in eight games to start the season. If he keeps it up, he should have no trouble sticking around all season and hopefully longer.

"Last year at the end of the year, the team wasn't doing as well. This year, the management and the ownership has been doing a great job of bringing in guys that want to win," Milan said. "The city's great and obviously it's great to come back here, especially with a lot of the guys that were coming in, the recruits that were getting brought in to come play here.

"It's nice to sit down in Edinburgh and know I'm going to be here for a while."

Milan started the season at a disadvantage, as he was late to join the team, but player-coach Michal Dobron placed him with a solid pair of linemates upon his arrival.

"I got in about a week and a half late due to some visa complications so I got in here and got put with a line of Matt Tipoff and Ian Schultz. We've done well together. They're both ex-major junior players," Milan said. "I'm excited to play with these guys because they both bring good offensive instincts to our line."

Admittedly, after years playing on teams with coaches who coached exclusively, Milan noted it's been a bit of an adjustment playing for one who takes a regular shift on the ice alongside him.

"You've got to have a little self-control and the onus is on you if you have a bad shift or a bad play," he said. "It's a little bit different and it has its advantages and disadvantages."

The Capitals also had player-coach Riley Emmerson last year, though he was sidelined by injury by the time Milan arrived in Scotland.

Milan said Dobron has taken an approach that everyone is responsible for a little bit of everything, so they've got to grind and do it well.

"Our team doesn't really have the guys saying 'You're going to be a goal scorer, you're going to be this guy, you're going to be that guy.' We're three even lines and we're just going to roll," he said. "Sometimes you're on the power play and sometimes you're not. It just depends where you are in the rotation."

That said, Milan knows the main way he's going to boost the team is through helping to put the puck in the net.

"For me, I've got to bring offensiveness to the table," he said.

Coming off of a tough season in 2015-16, the Capitals made some immediate moves to get better, overhauling much of the squad but retaining Milan. Edinburgh brought in former Chicago Blackhawks first-round pick Pavel Vorobiev and Thunder Bay, Ont.'s Jared Staal, whose three brothers are all top NHLers.

"It's cool. Coming in, you're telling yourself, 'Oh, a Staal brother' and everyone knows the history of all the guys so you appreciate coming to a team that has big names like that," he said. "Those guys are just ordinary guys in the locker room and nice guys to hang out with and they're not anything different than what you'd expect from a hockey player."

The Capitals aren't quite setting the world on fire yet, but they've picked up a couple of wins and have been more competitive than in past years. Milan said as the squad continues to gel, they'll continue to improve and, at least, give some of the EIHL's elite a good game night in and night out.

"We're capable of beating anyone on any given night," he said. "We've had a good start so far and we want it to keep going.

"Fans around the league and different teams might think we're the same team as last year in Edinburgh. We're just going to kind of roll over and are not going to give them a great game. A few teams have been fooled by that this year already. We've beaten a lot of the bigger-name teams out there and they have a bigger budget so it's cool. It's a whole new year."

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