Joe Coulter returns for second season with Leeds Chiefs
The 25-year-old Scottish forward wanted to return; player-coach Sam Zajac wanted him back, so much so that the deal was done before the 2019-20 debut campaign was brought to an early finish by the coronavirus pandemic.
Much like Sam Gospel and Lewis Baldwin, both already announced as returning for a second season at Elland Road Ice Arena, Coulter was at the top of the retained list for the Chiefs’ boss.
One of the Chiefs’ most effective two-way players last season, Coulter soon developed the trust of his coach, who quickly realised he would fit any kind of game situation.
Granted, points were hard to come by early on but, with a final return of seven goals and 13 assists from 43 appearances, Coulter more than played a key role for the Chiefs in what everyone knows was a challenging debut campaign.
He was also one of just three ever-presents for the Chiefs, along with Zajac and fellow Scot Steven Moore, and the Chiefs’ coach expects his alternate captain to play an increasingly significant role for whenever the green light is given to face-off next season.
“I was really happy with the full package Joe brought in last season, not just on the ice but as one of the leaders in the dressing room, too,” said Zajac.
“He’s a big presence and a big personality - I’m delighted he’s coming back for another year and I know the fans will be, too.
“He took on a bigger role the longer the season went on and over the last few weeks there he was playing on the top line and had some power play time. It was down the stretch that he produced the lion’s share of his points - he just got better and better as the season wore on.”
It would be no great surprise were Coulter to be handed the ‘A’ for a second successive season, Zajac being particularly impressed with his leadership qualities.
“You know what you’re going to get from him when you send him out there,” added Zajac. “He’s going to be good on the defensive side of the puck and he’s going to chip in offensively too.
“That is a great thing to have as a coach, to have somebody like him up your sleeve.
“He understands the game well and is a very vocal guy on the bench. For me, despite him only being 25 still, he is going to be one of the veteran presences on our roster next season. We’re going to have a young team and he’s got an old head on young shoulders. He’s a very mature guy.”
Coulter embraced the challenge of playing away from his hometown for the first time in his career and, while he currently spends the summer back home in Dumfries, he is keen to rekindle his love affair with the city of Leeds.
“There are no regrets at all from me, I loved my time on the ice, but also off the ice,” said Coulter. “We had so much fun, especially moving to a new city, I come from a small town in Scotland, so a big city like Leeds just caught me and I loved it completely.
“It was a huge reason why I wanted to come back, I wanted to come and live in the city again, and maybe I’ll be able to catch some Premier League games now that Leeds United are back where they belong!”
Coulter says the Chiefs will be keen to prove a point next time out, having hopefully put all the adversity that so characterised their debut season firmly behind them.
“I think we’re going to be the most hated team to play against,” he added. “We’ve got younger, we’ve got faster and we’re going to play a very energetic style of hockey. I think we’re going to make it frustrating for any team.
“Everybody that we’ve signed has a point to prove. Whether it is guys returning or new guys looking to make an impression - I don’t see any reason why we can’t competing right at the top.”
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Thank you, Laura Collins