SAM ZAJAC believes forward Chris Sykes will prove a major impact player for Leeds Chiefs after the Sheffield-born forward agreed to sign up for the club’s NIHL National campaign.
The 27-year-old is the Chiefs’ sixth confirmed signing for the 2019-20 season which begins in mid-September.
Sykes makes the switch to West Yorkshire after proving a leading light for Billingham Stars over the last five years, leading the scoring for the last three seasons, his best return being in 201-18 when he scored 72 points, including 41 goals, in just 35 games.
But the formation of a new and hopefully more competitive second tier in the UK game has prompted Sykes to hook up with player-coach Zajac.
Like all the signings announced so far by the Chiefs, Sykes is another bringing plenty of experience to Elland Road, having come through the Sheffield junior system to play for Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Steeldogs for two seasons, as well as 23 Elite League games for the now defunct Hull Stingrays.
He’s the kind of player that you hate to play against. He makes his presence felt and has an impact every time he’s on the ice.Sam Zajac on new signing Chris Sykes
He has also represented GB at Under-18 and Under-20 level.
“Chris is going to be a real coup for us this season,” said Zajac. “His record speaks for itself - he’s put up big points for several years now and carried an offense in Billingham where at times he didn’t have much of a supporting cast.
“Playing in Whitley Bay the last two years, I’ve personally seen a lot of Sykesy and he’s the kind of player that you hate to play against. He makes his presence felt and has an impact every time he’s on the ice.”
Zajac, preparing for his first campaign as a player-coach after time as an player- assistant coach to David Longstaff at Whitley Bay last season, said Sykes’s two-way game would prove a real asset for Leeds.
“He’s responsible at both ends of the ice and can create offense from nothing,” added Zajac. “But he also has that physical edge and compete level to his game.
“He’s going to fit into our top six and we know we’re going to get 100 per cent from him every night.”