Ethan Mittelsteadt: Living Out The Childhood Dream
When defenceman Ethan Mittelsteadt found out that he was being traded to the Kelowna Rockets from the Seattle Thunderbirds prior to the WHL trade deadline in early January 2023 he couldn’t believe that his childhood dream was coming true.
The Mittelsteadt family called Kelowna home until Ethan was about 11 years old and were big Rockets fans.
“It’s kind of full circle being back here and playing in front of the fans at Prospera Place, just like how it was when I was a kid,” said Mittelsteadt in an interview with kelownarockets.com. “It’s really surreal, we had season tickets and still have all of our jerseys.
“Normally I would only see my grandma twice a year but now I’m billeting with her here in Kelowna, so that’s been really nice.”
Ethan and his family moved to Victoria, BC where the dream of playing in the Western Hockey League never died. Suiting up for the Victoria Admirals U15 AAA during the 2019-20 season, Mittelsteadt was hopeful that his unconventional path would help him be drafted. During the fifth round of the 2019 WHL Prospects Draft in May 2020, the Seattle Thunderbirds picked the left-shot defenceman 95th overall.
“I went a bit of a different route than a lot of guys, I played minor hockey my draft year and had a really good year. I talked to a few teams and knew there was some interest, but I wasn’t too sure of where I was going to go. It was during covid so I was following it on my phone and then I got the call from Seattle’s general manager, I was filled with excitement and joy. I called my mom and dad right away because they were at work.
“Ever since that day it’s been go, go, go, just looking to get better and take that next step. I’m really appreciative that Seattle gave me the opportunity in this league, I can never take that away from them, just like I’m appreciative of Kelowna giving me a chance here.”
During the 2021-22 season, Mittelsteadt spent the majority of the first half of the campaign with the VIJHL’s Westshore Wolves where he recorded 15 points (4G, 11A) over 27 games. As an affiliate player for the Thunderbirds, the 16-year-old posted a pair of assists in 16 games.
He would go on to join the T-Birds for their playoff run that saw Seattle defeat the Rockets in the opening round and make it all the way to the WHL Championship, where they fell to the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Mittelsteadt made the Thunderbirds roster full-time for the 2022-23 season as a 17-year-old. Seattle didn’t let up off the gas pedal from the season before, bolstering their blueline with the additions of Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Nolan Allan, which already featured 2022 Chicago Blackhawks seventh overall pick Kevin Korchinski. He said that he was able to learn from their high-end players as they geared up for another run to the Championship.
“My two years in Seattle, I think that helped me grow as a player. Just kind of moving from that minor hockey, pre-junior to full junior and pro player. Those guys have amazing habits, even Jared Davidson. The way they go about their day-to-day, they go to the rink and put in the work and the time. I really learned what it takes to be a good player and what you have to do to get to the next level.”
Seattle added another piece to their puzzle in loading up, trading for Kelowna Rockets captain and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Colton Dach on January 7, 2023. Coming back the other way was Mittelsteadt, 18-year-old forward Ty Hurley, a first-round pick in the 2024 WHL Prospects Draft, a conditional second-round pick in the 2025 WHL Prospects Draft and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft.
Prior to the trade, the blueliner had posted a goal and an assist through 24 games with Seattle. Following the deal, he would record three goals and two assists in a Rockets jersey over 29 games. He appeared in all four of the Rockets playoff games against his former club.
“I have great memories and had a great time in Seattle, but as soon as I heard the news that I was coming to Kelowna I was very excited. I enjoyed the last half of the year with the Rockets and look forward to carrying that forward into this season.”
Over the summer he returned home where he continued training, becoming friends with a name that’s familiar to Rockets fans, Kyle Topping. Topping spent four seasons with Kelowna from 2016 through 2020, after spending last season in Switzerland, he’s set to play for Västerås IK in Sweden this season.
“I was working on a lot of things throughout the summer, obviously the bigger, stronger, faster, but also those small details to help me throughout the season. Meeting Kyle, we got to talk about his Rockets days and my Rockets days.”
A late birthdate, born in December of 2005, Mittelsteadt will be eligible for the NHL Draft for the first time this upcoming June.
“I believe that team success brings individual success, so always worrying about the team first. I’m looking to take big steps this year, my personal goal is obviously to be drafted and take advantage of the late birthdate. I’m really looking forward to the year, it should be a big one for the team and myself.”
Don’t miss a minute of the action this season with season tickets. Learn more about Rockets 2023-24 season tickets here.