Lewis Houston sees no problem with Leeds Knights aiming high in NIHL National
LEWIS HOUSTON believes a levelling up of the playing field will enable Leeds Knights to become a team capable of challenging for NIHL National honours next season.
The 20-year-old Scottish forward today becomes the ninth signing to be announced by the Knights ahead of the 2021-22 campaign and comes just a few days before Canadian head coach and GM Dave Whistle is expected to land in the UK.
All the signings so far have been set in motion by Knights’ team owner Steve Nell who was keen to establish a core group upon which Whistle could build the rest of his roster.
Whistle has already held talks with potential recruits, both at home and abroad, as he gets to work in preparation for his first season in senior hockey since a short second spell in charge at the Elite League’s Cardiff Devils at the back end of the 2013-14 season.
But, like all the previous signings made by Nell, it is clear Houston is another who meets with Whistle’s approval and, given the impact he had when joining Leeds Chiefs for the second half of their debut campaign back in 2019-20, that should come as no surprise.
Houston arrived a couple of weeks before Christmas 2019 and only days after player-coach Sam Zajac’s team had lost three of its players.
But, on a weekend double-header down at Basingstoke Bison, he played a key role in the Chiefs’ enjoying what proved to be their best weekend of the season, scoring the overtime winner on the Sunday to secure four points for the still-homeless visitors.
Having spent his entire career previously in Scotland, Houston adapted to life at the higher level with surprising ease, going on to finish the season with 22 points, including a 15-goal haul.
Like the majority of other players, the sudden end to his first season south of the border because of the coronavirus pandemic has led to months of frustration for Houston, although he has been able to get on the ice in Dumfries recently with former club Solway Sharks.
Practice sessions are expected to begin with Whistle at Elland Road sometime in early August, something Houston cannot wait to be a part of.
“I can’t wait to get back down to Leeds and try to pick up where we left off all that time ago, to get back into some kind of routine down there,” said Houston. “My heart was always set on coming back to Leeds – like it was last summer – because I enjoyed myself so much down there. It was an easy decision for me.”
Given the signings that have come before him this summer and the appointment of the experienced Whistle, Houston is confident the Knights will compete at the opposite end of the table to where the Chiefs spent most of their solitary campaign.
“Just looking at the players we already have, we should be pushing for the top spots,” added Houston. “Making the playoffs is the minimum requirement going into this season, it’s a must for us.
“And with it being more of a level playing field for us – having our own rink from the start, for instance – we can really show people what we’re capable of.”
Whistle believes Houston is another young player on his roster packed with potential, impressed by the impact he had during his initial spell in Leeds.
“I’ve heard a lot of good things about Lewis – the fact he’s a good team-mate, has good hands and a pretty good skater with plenty of scoring in him,” said Whistle.
“I’m convinced he will bring plenty of offence to the team and what is great is that he settled in so quickly when he came down from Scotland that first time to play in Leeds – that shows he is a good team-mate to have around.”