Tristan King is in his third stint with the Idaho Steelheads.
In his first two trips through Idaho, diehard Steelheads fans came to know King as a young forward who was loaded with potential, but short on results.
Three games into his third go-around with Idaho, that potential exploded. King scored four goals at Colorado on Oct. 17, which tied an ECHL era record for most goals in a game by a Steelhead. Mark Derlago scored four times against Las Vegas on March 5, 2011.
That was a fun game, King said prior to Wednesdays 7-2 win over the Ontario Reign at CenturyLink Arena. I had a hat trick in juniors a couple of times, but that was my first pro hat trick. And then to get another one to tie the team era record, that was pretty gratifying.
King played 30 games and scored five goals with Idaho during the 2010-11 season. Last season, King scored one goal in four games before he told the Dallas Stars organization he needed a change of scenery.
I think last year, some of the parts just werent right for me, and I wasnt getting the time on the ice, the 6-foot, 210-pound King said. I just thought I needed to move to a different organization and see how it was.
He spent four games with Greenville of the ECHL before realizing that wasnt going to work. Finally, he landed with the Reign, where he spent the rest of the season.
He had 17 goals and 24 assists in 45 regular-season games with Ontario.
You watch a game, and you see so much upside and potential there, Reign coach Jason Christie said of King.
During the offseason, with a year of maturity under his belt and a new head coach in Idaho, the 21-year-old King decided he wanted to give Idaho another try if he didnt stick with Texas of the AHL.
New Steelheads head coach Brad Ralph could have been forgiven if he was a little leery about King returning to Idaho a third time.
Obviously, I looked at what had transpired and Im not oblivious to that, Ralph said. But at the same time, Im going to make my own judgments and Im not going to prejudge anyone. Tristans young, hes still young. We kind of take it for granted that once they get here they should have it all figured out. But it took me three years to kind of figure out how to be the best player I could be.
Could it be a coincidence that King, in his third season, entered Wednesdays game as the ECHLs leading goal scorer, with five?
I worked hard last summer, King said. Every year, I feel like Im adding something to my game.
Ralph said the work has been paying off.
Hes got explosive speed, hes got great hands, great vision and an NHL shot, he said.
But now that Ralph has seen what King can do when hes at his best, the coach wants more.
Youre not going to score four goals every night, Ralph said. But now hes got to follow it up every night with that kind of effort.
For his part, King said he was ready to do just that, and in a Steelheads uniform.
Its just a fresh start here, he said. It feels like Im in the right place now.
Chris Langrill: 377-6424