One step down from the National Hockey League, Colton Yellow Horn is showing he has what it takes.
Called up to play on Feb. 7 with the Manchester Monarchs, Los Angeles Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate, Yellow Horn notched an assist in his first game.
It’s a career chance Yellow Horn, 25, was hoping for.
“With the NHL coming back now there’s a lot of shifting going on,” Yellow Horn said.
As of Feb. 1, Yellow Horn was leading the East Coast Hockey League with 54 points (34 goals, 20 assists) in his first 45 games with the California-based Ontario Reign. He had a four-point lead over the second highest point-getter.
“I had set some personal goals coming into the year but I didn’t expect it to happen this fast,” said Yellow Horn, a Blackfoot, from the Piikani First Nation.
One of his goals was to crack the 40-goal plateau this season.
With 27 regular season games remaining, at his current scoring pace Yellow Horn is easily expected to reach that total.
“Now my main goal is to have the team win the league championship,” Yellow Horn said.
The Reign, based in the city of Ontario, is considered one of the favourites for the ECHL title this season. The club was tied for top spot in the over-all standings of the 23-team league, which is considered two steps below the NHL.
“I believe we can win the league,” Yellow Horn said. “We’ve just got to stay healthy.”
How much of a hand Yellow Horn will have in helping to meet that goal will depend on how long he skates with the Monarchs.
Yellow Horn’s NHL rights do not belong to any organization so any AHL squad could have come calling for him. But as the Reign is affiliated with the LA Kings it made sense that the New Hampshire-based Manchester Monarchs would give Yellow Horn the nod. Some of the players on the Ontario roster are property of the Kings.
Yellow Horn had spent the majority of the past three seasons with the Texas-based Allen Americans, members of the Central Hockey League. That includes the 2010-11 campaign where he had a career high of 88 points. He has been a pro-hockey player for five years.
“Sometimes a guy needs a change of scenery,” Yellow Horn said of his decision to switch leagues and join the Reign this season.
One of the main reasons why Yellow Horn opted to join the Reign is because three of his friends he grew up with in Alberta - brothers Brock and Brodie Sheanan and Everett Sheen - are also members of the team.
Yellow Horn started his junior career in his home province with the Western Hockey League’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, only one hour from his home community of Brocket, where he played three years. He played two more seasons after that in the league with the Washington-based Tri-City Americans.
Yellow Horn then kicked off his pro career during the 2008-09 season with a club in Austria. But partway through that season he came back to North America and signed with the ECHL’s Elmira Jackals.
Yellow Horn also played a couple of games with the Jackals the following season before he was traded to the California-based Stockton Thunder. He then switched leagues and finished that season with the CHL Americans.