Leeds Knights’ forward thinking appeals to Cole Shudra as he signs on two-way deal from Sheffield Steelers

EXPERIENCE will play a key role for Leeds Knights as they embark on their first season in NIHL National in September.

Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 7:16 am
Cole Shudra, pictured playing for Sheffield Steelers during the 2019-20 EIHL season, has signed a two-way deal with Leeds Knights. Picture: Dean Woolley.

A good helping of that will be provided behind the bench in the shape of head coach Dave Whistle, while the likes of defenceman Sam Zajac and goaltender Sam Gospel will also be crucial out on the ice.

But 55-year-old Whistle also wants a liberal sprinkling of young, hungry players on his roster going forward and he believes new signing Cole Shudra is the personifcation of that.

The 22-year-old forward arrives today on a two-way deal from Elite League outfit Sheffield Steelers a club which began life with as an apprentice alongside a certain Liam Kirk back in 2016.

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Dave Whistle, pictures coaching at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in British Columbia.

Since then, he has spent time on other two-way deals with neighbouring Sheffield Steeldogs, while also spending an invaluable season in the top-flight with Milton Keynes Lightning, during their brief, two-year stay among the elite.

His 2019-20 season saw him gain plenty of ice time with the Steelers, but more often as a defenceman rather than in his preferred position as a forward.

Like every other player, last season was seriously disrupted, a brief spell in the Swedish second tier being followed by time with Coventry Blaze in the behind-closed-doors Elite Series at Nottingham’s National Ice Centre.

Shudra, son of Steelers’ legendary defenceman Ron, arrives in Leeds keen to prove his credentials as a forward and, under Whistle, believes he has the best opportunity to develop his game.

Sheffield Steelers' head coach Aaron Fox. Picture: Dean Woolley.

In fact, one conversation with the Canadian was all it took to persuade him of the need to make the short trip up the M1 a regular one.

“It was that first phone call that I had with Dave Whistle, to be honest, that convinced me to come to Leeds,” said Shudra.

“He seemed like a really genuine guy, someone that will look after his players. He’s got a ton of experience at the highest level in this country, so I can learn a hell of a lot from him and, hopefully, develop and move myself forward.

“I feel that coming to Leeds and playing under Dave will accelerate my development.

“Looking around the team, I feel like a lot of us are at a similar point in our careers - we want to develop, we want to win, we’re all competitive and, hopefully, that will help breed success for us as a team.

“If we can all push each other and help each other get to the next level, we should be in for a great season.”

Whistle believes Shudra can be a potent offensive threat for the Knights, creating chances for others with his size and skill, but also getting on the gamesheet himself on a regular basis.

“We’re obviously going to need a few older guys to balance things out but, at the same time, I also want some younger guys, guys who are hungry, who want to move up in the game, want to keep improving as a player and Cole is definitely one of those players,” said Whistle.

“I know his dad very well, his dad was a good player, a good guy, a good team-mate, I’m pretty sure Cole will be the same.”

Steelers’ head coach Aaron Fox believes the two-way deal with Leeds will only benefit Shudra’s future chances, adding: “We let Cole explore what options were best for him in regards to the NIHL team and once he did that Steve and Dave were easy to work with on finalising the two-way side of it.”