Local hockey defenseman Cole Clayton signed a contract to play for the Cleveland Monsters in the American Hockey League (AHL) for the upcoming season.
Though originally from Strathmore, Clayton was scouted by the Monsters while he played for the Medicine Hat Tigers in the Western Hockey League (WHL).
Clayton said he is looking forward to the opportunity to play a full season with the team and to train among older, stronger players.
“It’s pretty exciting. (I’m) definitely a little nervous heading down there, but it will be a good experience,” he said. “It will be similar to playing in the WHL, but it will be a lot faster. Everyone’s older, so I’m going to be the young guy again. It will be a bit of an adjustment that way, but … (playing with) better players and more of them.”
Now 21-years-old, Clayton said he has been on the ice since he was five and played for local teams in Strathmore and for the now defunct UFA/CFR Bisons, before heading out to Medicine Hat.
Clayton added the road has not exactly been smooth skating, but that he is motivated to keep going in order to play with and against better and better teams.
“There’s always challenges – getting cut from teams when I was younger, going up through the ranks was definitely hard … I had a really good COVID-19 shortened season and then was able to get the opportunity to sign with Cleveland this summer,” said Clayton. “Just sticking with it, being able to find a way, and … this is my last year of junior (hockey) so I needed to use something and I had a good year, and it worked out for me.”
The season for Clayton will be a full 72 games with the Monsters over the course of a year. From there, he said he’s not sure which team he will play for next, but hopes to one day play in the NHL.
“We play some of the Canadian teams since we are close to Toronto, so it will be cool. I have a buddy playing on the Ottawa Senators so I will play him a bit.”
Clayton said he considers the Monsters a stepping stone for him and a great place to learn more and become a better player, though for the moment it is a highlight of his career.
“It will be cool. I have never really been down that way so it will be interesting,” he said.
Clayton departed for Ohio on Aug. 27 according to his mother, Heather, to join the rest of the team.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times