Leeds Knights: Who is Mack Stewart and when is he likely to play for the Knights again?

LEEDS KNIGHTS fans may get to see more of teenage forward Mack Stewart after he was a surprise late addition to the team’s roster at the weekend.

Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 4:35 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 9:38 pm
BRIGHT FUTURE: Mack Stewart of Team Red battles with Nathan Nicoud of Team Green during their Men's Mixed Ice Hockey NOC 3-on-3 Finals Gold Medal match at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympics Picture: Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images

The 17-year-old Belfast Giants’ junior came over to train with the Knights on Thursday and Friday, impressing enough to be taken on board by head coach Dave Whistle for the trip to Basingstoke Bison - which the Knights won 3-1 - and Sunday’s 10-4 victory over Raiders IHC at Elland Road.

His arrival proved timely, providing cover for the unavailable Matty Davies in both NIHL National Autumn Cup games, his impact being more noticeable on Sunday night when he chipped in with three assists in a game he spent the majority of time playing alongside Cole Shudra and Brandon Whistle.

Currently studying for his A’Levels, Stewart flew back to Northern Ireland early on Monday morning but, according to Whistle, it is possible he may soon return, possibly even this weekend as the Knights look to maintain their 100 power cent start to the competition when they take on Milton Keynes Lightning and Peterborough Phantoms.

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The teenager is the son of Rob Stewart, a former team-mate of Whistle’s at Bracknell Bees in the late 1990s and who went on to play under Whistle for the same organisation before following him over to Belfast Giants in 2000.

Stewart became player-coach for the Giants in 2003 when Whistle departed for a brief spell in the German top-flight. He also had a brief spell as Sheffield Steelers’ head coach and has been assistant coach at Belfast since 2009.

After the Giants’ Juniors’ team on which Stewart Jnr was on recently folded, it left the youngster looking for ice time, which is where Whistle stepped in to hand him his senior debut at the weekend.

“He looked good when he came to training last week and so we threw him in,” said Whistle. “He played a regular shift in the second half of the game in Basingstoke and then all night against Raiders he got a regular shift.

“He did well, he got stuck in there, he tried to make plays, he’s a pretty good skater and is strong on the puck.

“So he’s got some pretty good skills there to work with and it’s nice to get a younger guy like that who has already been coached pretty well and plays his position pretty well.

“When Matty comes back I’m not sure where Mack fits in at the moment, but I do want to maybe sign one or two more guys, in case of injuries and stuff, so who knows who that will be or how many times he will be playing here, but I thought he did very well.

“I know he can play in this league and I have no problem keeping him, I just don’t know how it’s going to work at the moment.”

Mackenzie Stewart (GBR/Red Team) and Evan Thomas Nauth pictured after the Mixed NOC 3-on-3 play-offs semi-finals at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympics Picture: Basile Barbey/Getty Images

In January 2020, when aged 15, Stewart Jr made the headlines when he won a silver medal in ice hockey at the Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne, having reached the men’s mixed 3v3 final with his team.

Given how well the weekend went, sticking the youngster with his son Brandon and Shudra was a combination which worked well for the Knights, according to Whistle.

“Rob and I played together for many years and then I coached him for a long time too and we’ve kept in touch,” added Whistle. “When I heard what had happened to Mack’s team, I told Rob I’d give him a crack at a couple of training sessions and he did well.

“I believe he can play in the league and that he can play in our team, too. But just where he fits in I don’t know right at the moment.

IMPRESSED: Leeds Knights head coach Dave Whistle say Mack Stewart is likely to play more games this season. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

“Brandon and Cole were fine with him and with the other two lines playing well, I didn’t want to break up either of those - so it worked out fine and he held his own and showed plenty of promise.”

Mack Stewart played on a line with Brandon Whistle for Leeds Knights against Basingstoke and Raiders at the weekend. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints