A Red Deer hockey player is ready to take the next step in his career as he has signed an American Hockey League contract.
Kale Howarth, 24, has signed with the Rockford IceHogs – the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks – for the 2021-22 season.
The six-foot-five, 201-pound winger said he’s excited to join the AHL club, but he knows his job isn’t done there.
“I’m pretty over the moon about it, but obviously I want an NHL contract,” said Howarth.
Being able to play hockey at the professional level is “a dream come true,” he added.
“It’s been a long road, it’s been a long process. I’ve been through a lot of ups and a lot of downs. I’m super excited to be a part of a great organization,” said Howarth.
Howarth said he is looking forward to meeting up with two former Red Deer Rebels, Brandon Hagel and Reese Johnson, who are already in the Blackhawks organization.
“I knew Hags pretty well, growing up playing against him and when he played for the Rebels. Reese and I have become pretty good friends over the years too. It’ll be really nice to help me get comfortable in camp, but we were mainly deciding on places to go where I would be able to succeed and where they help develop players,” he said.
Howarth, who was selected in the fifth-round by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2017 NHL Draft went unsigned by the Blue Jackets and as of Aug. 15 was able to sign with a new team.
He just completed his third season at the University of Connecticut last year, scoring five goals and two assists.
In 18 contests with the Huskies, he racked up 27 penalty minutes. He had career highs in goals (6), assists (10) and points (16) in 29 games during his sophomore campaign in 2019-20. In 79 career NCAA contests, Howarth totalled 34 points (16G, 18A).
Playing hockey at the University of Connecticut helped Howarth grow as a player, he said.
“I learned how hard it gets when you reach the next level and how you need to establish a role. In junior I was a goal scorer,” said Howard.
“I kind of found my role of not being relied on scoring every night (with the Huskies). I have that offensive ability, I can score. But I found my role in pro hockey and in college hockey is going to be a big-bodied power forward. Kind of like a Tom Wilson style. That suits my game really well. I like to play on the edge.”
Before joining the college ranks, Howarth skated three seasons with the Trail Smoke Eaters of the BCHL, recording 146 points (66G, 80A) in 148 games including a 61-point campaign (24G, 37A) in 2017-18, helping the Smoke Eaters reach the Interior Division Semi-Final. Howarth led the team with 16 postseason points (5G, 11A) in 16 games.
IceHogs head coach Derek King described Howarth as a “big, strong kid,” adding he is excited to be a part of the organization.
“When I spoke with him, he already sounds like a professional and he’s eager to learn. I’m excited for him and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do on the ice. He’s a big guy with a lot of hockey in him,” King told IceHogs.com.