Kings sign forward Taylor Ward to entry-level contract, + Frk/Wolanin/Hickey assigned to Ontario


As reported here yesterday, the Los Angeles Kings signed forward Taylor Ward to an entry-level contract, which will begin in the 2022-23 season. Ward will join Reign Ontario for the conclusion of the 2021-22 campaign on an amateur tryout (ATO) and is eligible to join the AHL club as of today’s game against Abbotsford.

Ward, 23, signed with the Kings organization from the University of Nebraska Omaha, where he recently completed a four-year collegiate career with the Mavericks. As a senior, Ward led the team with 39 points (19-20-39) in 38 games played, the highest season of his NCAA career. Ward’s 19 goals tied for 12th in the nation this season, when he was one of 33 players in the Premier League with more than a point per game.

Throughout his career with UNO, Ward had 115 points (57-58-115) in 131 games played. All-time, Ward ranks in the college Top 10 in goals (sixth) and points (ninth). Others in the Top 10 include former Kings forward Scott Parse and current Pittsburgh star Jake Guentzel.

Although he was not honored by the NCHC during his senior season, Ward is currently a finalist for the 2021-22 Senior CLASS award, as one of 10 hockey student-athletes considered for the honor that recognizes excellence in community, class, character and competition. The winner of this award will be announced at Frozen Four 2022. Ward was named an NCHC All-Conference Honorable Mention in the 2019-20 campaign and was the conference’s Rookie of the Year in the 2018- 19, as well as the All-Rookie team.

Ward’s entry-level contract is the first the Kings have given an undrafted college free agent since Blake Lizotte in the 2018-19 campaign. Lizotte signed from St. Cloud State and made her professional debut in the finale of this campaign. The Kings have had a solid track record with undrafted free agents over the past few seasons, with Lizotte, Alex Iafallo and Sean Walker all currently on the NHL’s roster in this roster. While drafted by Buffalo, goaltender Cal Petersen was also signed as a collegiate free agent in the summer of 2017.

Ward is the son of former Los Angeles Kings winger Dixon Ward. The elder Ward played 34 games with the Kings in the 1993-94 season and had six goals and eight points in 534 career NHL games. Ward’s collegiate head coach was former Ontario Reign defenseman and 2001 Kings eight-round draft pick Mike Gabinet.

Gabinet on the room
It was really great to witness Taylor’s growth and maturity on and off the ice during his first two years here. He is a special player who continues to develop, and he will be a main driver for us this year.

Earlier today, the Kings assigned forward Martin Frk and defenseman Christian Wolanin to the Reign.

Frk has skated in each of the Kings’ last four games, scoring a goal, while Wolanin was in the lineup against Colorado earlier this week. At the AHL level, Frk has 31 goals this season in 46 games, ranking second in the league, two behind Chicago’s Stefan Noesen. Wolanin had 11 assists in 24 games played with Ontario. Both players are top AHL players and both will bolster an Ontario roster that has felt the effects of injuries at the NHL level.

Additionally, the Reign received reinforcements on the blue line, as the New York Islanders reassigned defenseman Thomas Hickey from their AHL affiliate in Bridgeport to Ontario.

Hickey is obviously a household name to Kings fans and appeared in 212 AHL games with the Manchester Monarchs during his time with the organization. In 2021-22, Hickey played two NHL games with New York this season and 29 games with the AHL’s Bridgeport Islanders, where he scored 12 points on four goals and eight assists.

While we don’t have the full story on the Hickey trade, the AHL affiliate from New York to Bridgeport is currently eighth of nine teams in the Atlantic Division, two games under the .500 mark. Ontario is a certain playoff team in the Pacific Division and is understandably down on players right now, with the wave of injuries on the blue line at the NHL level. Will update with additional information if this happens.

Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Kings are absent today, while the Reign host the Abbotsford Canucks at 5 p.m. in Ontario. A home win would secure a playoff berth for Ontario, with the new AHL playoff format featuring 7 of the 9 Pacific Division teams. The Reign are still in the hunt for the division’s only first-round bye, four points behind the Stockton Heat with 16 games left.


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