The pro hockey world can be quite unstable, especially if one isn’t a franchise player in the National Hockey League. Many players will bounce around from team to team, sometimes appearing with three, four or more clubs in a single season. OHL grad Justin Taylor is the exception to that trend.
Since playing his last hockey with the London Knights in 2009-10, except for a half season in 2012-13, Taylor has played his entire pro career with the Kalamazoo Wings in the ECHL. Justin has recently committed to the K Wings, and head coach Nick Bootland, for the 2015-16 ECHL season.
Taylor played four years in the Ontario Hockey League from 2006-07 to 2009-10 with the London Knights. Justin was originally drafted by the Kingston Frontenacs in the sixth round of the 2005 OHL Priority Selection, 104th overall.
In 2008-09, playing alongside current NHLers Nazem Kadri, John Carlson, John Tavares and Michael Del Zotto, Taylor led the Knights with 37 goals. In his final season, Justin served as team captain for Dale Hunter’s Knights. Over his OHL career, Taylor totalled 102 goals and 100 assists for 202 points over 231 regular season games. In 47 playoff games, he added 31 points.
Back in his first year, 2006-07, Taylor played just 31 games with London and 37 in the OPJHL with the Wellington Dukes. Despite the inexperience, the Washington Capitals took Justin in the sixth round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, 180th overall.
He has played pro since 2010-11 in the AHL and ECHL. His time in the American Hockey League has been limited to 15 games, all in his rookie season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
In that rookie 2010-11 season, Taylor played just 48 regular season games for Kalamazoo. He excelled with 25 goals and 23 assists for 48 points, his best numbers in the ECHL to date. Justin also appeared in 19 Kelly Cup playoff games as the Wings reached the finals before falling to the Alaska Aces in five games. The Aces were led in goal by another London Knights grad, Gerald Coleman.
In 2012-13, after starting the season with Kalamazoo, Taylor joined the Trenton Titans after eleven games. After 23 games with the Titans, it was off to the Idaho Steelheads for the rest of the year. Justin played in 17 playoff games with the Steelheads as the club reached the Western Conference final before falling in five to the Stockton Thunder.
This past season, Taylor appeared in 60 games for the Wings, scoring eleven and assisting on 23 for the Nick Bootland coached club. Bootland played three years in the OHL from 1995-96 to 1997-98 with the Guelph Storm. Serving as assistant coach was Colin Chaulk. Chaulk played four years in the OHL from 1994-95 to 1997-98 with the Kingston Frontenacs. The team was led in scoring by another OHL grad Matt Caria. Caria played in the OHL from 2005-06 to 2008-09 with the Majors, Greyhounds and Whalers. The team lost in the opening round of the playoffs to the Fort Wayne Komets.
Entering his sixth ECHL season, Taylor is set to pass some milestones in 2015-16. He currently sits with 89 ECHL goals and should top 100. With 194 career points, he also should easily reach the 200 point plateau.
Some version of the Kalamazoo Wings has existed since the early 1970’s in the IHL, UHL and ECHL. In a previous existence, Kalamazoo won the IHL’s Turner Cup in 1978-79 and 1979-80. Their last championship came in 2005-06 while playing in the UHL. The Wings have been in the ECHL since 2009-10.
The team plays home games at the 5,113 seat Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a venue that opened in 1974. The Wings are currently affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets.