SWINDON Wildcats’ Kyle Smith says he has a new sense of maturity this year after his senior career got off to a turbulent start last season.

Smith signed for the Cats from the Okanagan Hockey Academy alongside Ollie Stone, but after a good initial start, the young forward suffered from injury and a dip in form.

A niggling wrist injury plagued him throughout his debut campaign which limited the teenager to 35 appearances on the ice.

However, during those appearances, Smith showed glimpses of his capabilities as well as a willingness to get involved in the physical side of the game, something that is rare to see in a rookie.

While he concedes at times his inexperience may have been counteractive, he thinks it has left him in a better place to compete this season.

“Last year was pretty tough, coming into a new league as a young player and you’ve got to work your way up,” he said.

“I like the rough side of the game, last year it was quite uncommon especially for a young boy coming into the league with a visor on.

“It’s tough, I tried to get people to be afraid of me so I could win the battles.

“I wanted to be that guy who works hard on the ice.

“I did it a lot, I think I just need to wait for my time to come this year and work hard again.

“I’m more aware of what is happening on the ice this year, it’s a different league this year so I can’t be as scrappy as I was last season."

With experienced players such as Jan Kostal, Max Birbraer and Sam Bullas to look up to, the 19-year-old is in safe hands for this domestic campaign.

The Cats currently sit top of the early season standings and Smith has made no qualms about his ambitions to be league champions by March next year.

“I feel more comfortable this year, I think once my name is known and it is out there I can go a lot further,” he added.

“I think with a work ethic, going to the gym and things like that I can go further than other British players.

“I like to see myself as a strong player like Sam Bullas, it’s a tough role to play, I think it’s a tough role to play.

“This year I’m looking to go far in hockey, I want to win the league to start with and see where I can go from there.”