SWINDON Wildcats player-coach Aaron Nell expects Ben Nethersell to take his game to the next level after tying the D-man down to a new contract.

The 21-year-old will spend a fourth successive season on the senior roster at the Link Centre following the agreement of a fresh one-year deal.

With Sam Jones having departed the club over the summer to join Fife Flyers in the Elite League, Nell says there is a big gap to fill in the Cats’ defensive ranks.

And the Swindon coach says Nethersell can shoulder some of that burden as he looks to become a key player on the Cats roster himself.

“Ben is a player who has come along nicely with us. He has been with us three years and he really likes it here,” said Nell.

“Last season he had a bit of an illness and then once he got back fit, Sam Jones was playing so well that it was tough to take ice time away from Sam.

“In the second half of last season, Ben didn’t play as much as he would have liked – or as much as I would have liked, to be honest.

“When Sam was playing as well as he was, I couldn’t leave him out.

“That makes it difficult on some of the other guys in the team, but with Sam gone now, it’s a big hole and Ben is going to fill part of that role.

“This is the time where he looks to kick on in his career.”

Nethersell began his association with Swindon back in the 2012-13 season as part of the club’s Okanagan Academy and has since gone onto make more than 150 senior appearances.

“Ben has got a big year coming up and it will be a good test,” said Nell.

“He has been excellent for us in the past and I believe he can have a big year next season.”