Leeds Knights: Brandon Whistle making good second impression on Sheffield Steelers coach Aaron Fox
The Leeds Knights forward secured a two-way deal last month, meaning he was free to play and train with the Steelers whenever his Leeds commitments allowed.
Whistle’s coach at Leeds - his father Dave - has made it clear he wants all of his players to harbour ambitions of playing at a higher level and it is no different for his youngest son.
The 23-year-old forward has put in a string of impressive performances for the Knights, both in pre-season and in Saturday’s opener in the NIHL Autumn Cup when scoring two goals and an assist in the 7-1 win over Bees IHC at Elland Road.
Last Monday, Whistle was invited to take part in the Steelers’ pre-season training camp and, on Sunday night, with the Knights on a night off, he played for the Steelers in their second and final pre-season game against Nottingham Panthers.
He was joined on the Steelers’ roster by Knights’ team-mate Cole Shudra, also on a two-way deal but on different terms in that it is the Steelers who have first call on him should they need him.
Whistle has made no secret of his desire to play at a higher level again and, given what he has seen last week, Steelers’ boss Fox believes there is no reason to believe the Canadian-born centre won’t make it.
“Brandon has looked really good,” said Fox. “He came in here in really good shape. He skates well, makes plays and is not afraid to make plays. He has looked really good and I’ve liked him a lot.
“And I think he’s done a lot of work to put himself in this kind of position to come back and hopefully to play really really well.
“Just from what I’ve seen so far, I think he should be a full-time British player in this league and I think this year will be a great opportunity for him to prove that.”
It was Fox who ended Whistle’s first spell at Sheffield in the summer of 2019, deciding he was not part of his future plans.
Whistle, along with others on the Steelers’ roster including current Knights’ team-mates Kieran Brown and defenceman Jordan Griffin, had found ice time extremely limited under Fox’s predecessor, Tom Barrasso, during a difficult 2018-19 campaign for the team.
Brown remained in South Yorkshire alongside Shudra and Griffin. Whistle, on the other hand, headed through the exit door.
Within two months, he had secured a deal with Telford Tigers in the newly-formed NIHL National league. It turned out to be a good move, Whistle going on to win a league and cup double as an integral part of Tom Watkins’s roster, contributing 22 goals and 37 assists in just 37 appearances.
Then the global pandemic struck, leaving Whistle back in Canada without a team until Knights owner Steve Nell brought his father back to the UK to take over at Elland Road earlier this summer.
Within a few weeks, Brandon followed him to West Yorkshire with it later being announced he would be on a two-way deal with the Steelers.
Whistle readily admits didn’t do himself many favours during his first spell in Sheffield, largely centred around his fitness, but returns to these shores determined to prove he can cut it at the top level.
The current arrangement between the two clubs is one which seems to suit all parties.
“Leeds have first call on him, that is the agreement,” added Fox. “We’ve got a good relationship and I won’t push the envelope there.
“If they are not playing and we can use him, then I’ll definitely use him – that is my mindset on it.”