Ethan Rowland made his 2018-19 WHL season debut with the Red Deer Rebels Wednesday in Medicine Hat, but it wasn’t exactly an eye-opener for the Calgary native.
Rowland, who was called up from his hometown junior A Canucks earlier this week, played three games with the Rebels last spring.
Wednesday’s contest was, however, a reminder of just how prepared and focused a player has to be to perform at the major junior level.
“It was OK,” he said Thursday of his own performance in a 7-4 loss to the Tigers. “It’s a big jump from junior A, it’s different. The speed is different, the bodies are different, everyone’s a lot more skilled.
“You have to be playing every shift. You can’t take shifts off or you’re going to get scored against. I was just trying to do whatever I could . . . play the right way and do what I need to do.”
Rowland was a standout in the Rebels Black and White intrasquad game last fall, but was reassigned two weeks later. Instead of returning to the midget AAA Calgary Northstars, he joined the Calgary Canucks of the AJHL.
“I think I got more development in junior this year than I did in midget AAA as a 15-year-old,” he said.
“I learned a lot from our head coach, Brad Moran. He’s a pretty similar coach to Brent (Rebels GM/head coach Sutter), same tactics. He was hard on us, he made sure I was playing the right way. He would let me know if I was doing things wrong and that helped with my development a lot.”
Rowland, who won’t celebrate his 17th birthday until September, scored five goals and added 10 assists in 42 games with the Canucks.
His numbers weren’t overwhelming, but that has to be taken in context with the fact he played the entire season as a 16-year-old and with a team that didn’t score a lot and, accordingly, didn’t win a lot.
The Canucks, in fact, scored just 127 goals all season while posting a 9-49-2 record and finishing seventh in the eight-team AJHL South Division. They were then swept by the Okotoks Oilers in a first-round post-season series.
While Rowland saw time on the Canucks’ power play and also killed penalties, he admitted it was a tough season.
“When you didn’t win a lot, it’s difficult,” he said. “Our head coach (Darryl Olsen) was fired before Christmas. Brad took over and we went through a lot.
“There were guys who didn’t want to be there, so they were gone. There was a lot of stuff that went on, but the guys who did stay with it helped the team get better as the year went on.
“We made a push before playoffs and took Okotoks to three pretty good games. It is what it is. We weren’t the greatest team but there were things that were good.”
The five-foot-eight, 173-pound centre was the Rebels’ first-round pick — 22nd overall — in the 2017 WHL bantam draft and will almost certainly be with the club on a full-time basis next season.
Rebels vs. Lethbridge Hurricanes
Friday, 7 p.m., Centrium
The Hurricanes are rolling with a 9-1-0-0 record in their last 10 games and with a 38-18-5-5 record are two points behind the Edmonton Oil Kings for first place in the Central Division. Each team has two regular-season games remaining . . . The Lethbridge roster features five players in the top 20 in WHL scoring. RW Nick Henry is enjoying a superb season with a team-leading 91 points, which includes 27 goals. C Dylan Cozens is next with 83 points (33g,50a), while C Jordy Bellerive (33-48-81), RW Jake Elmer (38-40-78) and C Jake Leschyshyn (37-40-77) round out the ‘Canes’ top five. LW Taylor Ross is also having an impressive season with 34 goals and 67 points and Calen Addison has contributed 11 goals and 63 points from the blueline . . . No. 1 goaltender Carl Tetachuk, a WHL rookie, sports a 23-9-2 record with a 2.87 goals-against average and .909 save percentage . . . Addison was selected by Pittsburgh in the second round of the 2018 NHL entry draft. Leschyshyn was a second-round pick of Vegas in 2017, while in the same year Henry went to Colorado in the fourth round and Bellerive signed a free-agent deal with Pittsburgh. Cozens is projected as an early first-round pick in this year’s draft . . . Lethbridge has won three of five games versus Red Deer this season.
Injuries: Lethbridge — None to report. Red Deer — D Alexander Alexeyev (lower body, week-to-week).
Special teams: Lethbridge — Power play 23.9 per cent, fifth overall; penalty killing 76.6 per cent, 13th. Red Deer — Power play 18.4 per cent, 17th overall; penalty killing 76.5 per cent, 15th.