Leeds Knights: Sam Zajac backs young guns to make positive impact in NIHL National

SURROUNDED by young guns he may be, but Leeds Knights’ Sam Zajac has no concerns over the ability of his fellow defencemen to prove themselves at NIHL National level this season.

Saturday, 18th September 2021, 8:53 am
Updated Saturday, 18th September 2021, 10:30 am
YOUNG GUN: Defenceman Ben Solder has impressed for Leeds Knights in pre-season, including his ability to play forward when required. Picture: Andy Bourke.

While the average age of Dave Whistle’s Knights’ roster is 23.47, his defensive unit registers even lower on the scale, at 22.85.

Zajac is the ‘elder statesman’ of the group at 32, Leeds-born Bobby Streetly next oldest at 27, with the other five blue liners aged 23-years-old or younger.

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Lewis Baldwin, Ross Kennedy and Jordan Griffin have at least one season of second-tier experience behind them, while 20-year-old Ben Solder played 12 games for Raiders IHC in the Spring Cup before going on to impress in the Elite Series for Manchester Storm, from where he has joined Leeds on a two-way deal.

For 17-year-old Archie Hazeldine, it is his first taste of life at this level but he has looked impressive in the four pre-season games played by the Knights. And Zajac believes age for the Knights’ defence will prove to be just a number, with the group’s quality, speed and willingness to stand up for each other already evident.

IMPRESSIVE: Young defenceman Archie Hazeldine has caught the eye for Leeds Knights in pre-season. Picture: Andy Bourke.

“I’ve been very impressed with them all,” said Zajac. “That was one of the things back in the Chiefs’ days that we wanted to make changes on for that second season that never came - we wanted to get a bit younger and a bit more mobile on the back end and all these guys have fitted in really well.

“New guys like Kennedy and Griffin have already played plenty of games at this level now so there have been no surprises that they have come in and hit the ground running.

“But Archie and Ben have impressed everyone, especially Archie at such a young age. There’s definitely no lack of confidence with these young guys and the skill level is there - they are only going to get better the more experience they get.”

LEADING ROLE: Leeds Knights defenceman Sam Zajac in action against Swindon Wildcats. Picture courtesy of Kat Medcroft/WildcatsMedia.

Zajac believes the Knights’ defensive unit will prove adept at retaining the puck and making plays, rather than throwing it away.

“It’s rare that you get young British defencemen who are so good on the puck and make good plays,” he added. “And we’ve got several of them on our roster now and that’s going to be a major way that we play.”

To buy tickets to Saturday’s NIHL Autumn Cup clash against Bees IHC go HERE