The 21-year-old utility player continued his development curve last year with 29 games on the MKT blue line on his way to collecting the Most Improved Player trophy at Awards Nights 2018.
“I’m really excited to be back in MK for another season,” Whyte said. “I’ve been here for a few years now and have had a lot of fun playing hockey here.
“It’s always a great bunch of guys and everyone has a lot of fun throughout the season. It’s good playing for Cliff — he has a load of experience from the EPL and he brings a lot of positivity to the guys when it’s needed.”
Second-year head coach Clifford coached Whyte for the first time in 2017-18 after taking over the MKT reigns following six seasons as Assistant Coach with MK Lightning.
“It’s great to have Al all signed up for next season,” Clifford said. “When I came in last season I knew very little about him, but I was really pleasantly surprised by his work rate, versatility and ability wherever he played in the lineup.”
“Al was one of the easiest players on the team to deal with last year. He’s an absolute workhorse. He can skate and battle all night, he does what is asked of him every shift, every night — and with the minimum of fuss.”
Whyte is the ninth returnee from the team that reached the NIHL South 1 Playoffs Quaterfinals last season and Clifford is pleased to have been able to bring back another member of his first MKT roster.
“It’s important for the team to have a mix of newcomers and returnees,” Clifford said. “We need some continuity, but we also need to improve in certain areas — otherwise we would just stay the same which is not what we want.
“Bringing back core players who want to succeed with this team is vital to the club. Al has been a huge part of this team and will continue to be for at least another season.
“Sometimes with players like Al, their versatility leads to them constantly moving around the line up, and this was certainly the case for him last year.
“I have signed him predominantly as a defenceman — where I know he will do a great job — however, don’t be surprised to see him playing as a forward at some point this season as he can and will play anywhere for his team.”
The Peterborough native had tasted Second Division hockey prior to Thunder’s first year in the second-flight last year, having iced for both Lightning and his hometown Phantoms. But it was the signings of players such as Tom Carlon, Grant McPherson, Gareth O’Flaherty and Tom Annetts that Whyte says propelled MKT to earning points from every team in NIHL South 1 last year.
￼“Obviously with the new league setup the standard of hockey was a lot higher throughout. In previous seasons we’ve had quite a young team, but last season the addition of the ex-Lightning guys really added a lot of experience to the team which helped the whole team develop.
“This season it seems Cliff is going for quite a young team again — I think we’re going to have a fast, hardworking team that will enjoy competing against the other teams.
“I know last season there were a few games that we let ourselves down in and ideally should’ve had better results. I think with the team that cliff is putting together we have a really good chance to battle hard and compete consistently with the rest of the league.
“It’s great that the fan base is growing and we really noticed it last season. We have brilliant fans here in MK — it really makes a difference to me and the guys as we know they’re behind us all the way.”