WHL Next Generation is a 23-part series highlighting a handful of the future stars of the Western Hockey League. From first-round bantam draft picks to later-blooming selections, get to know the names of players set to establish themselves as the newest crop of exciting talent to grace the WHL. From August 1 through August 31, get the inside scoop on the incoming rookie class of 2018-19.
Team: Kelowna Rockets
The Kelowna Rockets have had success, making the playoffs for 11 straight seasons and winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup twice in that span. They do so by finding talent outside the first round of the WHL Bantam Draft. They’ve found gems in Cal and Nolan Foote, both taken in the second round and Kole Lind selected in the fourth round. The Rockets hope they have found another, and it certainly looks like they have, in Ethan Ernst.
Ernst was selected in the third-round (61st overall) by the Rockets in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft. During his 2017 season the Weyburn Sask. product accumulated 33 points (19G-14A) in 30 games while playing Bantam before getting called up to Midget where he posted three points (1G-2A) in 10 games.
After being drafted Ernst returned to Notre Dame where he was playing Midget hockey for the Hounds. Again, he found success, scoring 35 points (15G-20A) in 41 games. During the playoffs the 5-foot-11, 165-pound forward hit the twine six times, adding five assists for 11 points in nine games. This performance helped his team win the SMHA Championship.
“It was great, best it could have been,” said Ernst on his last season. “To win the title with a great group of guys was unbelievable. The whole team just bought in from the start of the season, we all worked hard every day and knew the sacrifices we needed to make to reach this level and win [the championship].”
Winning the SMHL Championship wasn’t the only place Ernst found success. He also got to compete in the Telus Cup. Where he posted seven points (3G-4A) in seven games.
“Getting to play against other top teams from different leagues was really cool. It really let me tune my game and gave my team a good challenge.”
Even with the challenge, the Notre Dame Hounds were able to go undefeated, winning all seven games and securing the Gold Medal.
In addition to playing in the Telus Cup, the Saskatchewan native got to represent his province in the WHL Cup. And while the tournament itself did not result in a medal, the experience gained was valuable.
“It was a great learning experience, something I’ll never forget. Playing against excellent players from across Western Canada and taking in the bigger stage was great.”
Travelling for both the Telus Cup and WHL Cup has prepared Ernst for life away from family, as he will be moving almost 15 hours (by car) away.
“Leaving my family will be scary, especially because it is so far away. But that’s part of hockey and getting to meet my billet family will be really exciting. Kelowna is a beautiful place and I’m really excited to see the different life-style and the sights around there.”
Now that he is eligible to play in the WHL, Ernst has been preparing all summer in attempts to impress the big club come training camp.
“I’ve been power skating a lot, trying to improve my speed and my quickness. I have been in the gym quite a bit too, building muscle to get bigger and stronger. In this league you play guys up to four years older than you and you have be prepared for that.”
As the Rockets look to make the playoffs for a 12th consecutive season and look to build on their success, Ernst will contribute to an already potent offence.
Ernst and the Rockets will kick off their 2018 pre-season on Friday August 31st at 7 p.m. PDT, when they host the Victoria Royals at Prospera Place, Kelowna.
What is your favorite food?
What is a hobby of yours that not many people know about?
I like to Fish and Hunt
Is there a song you could sing solely based on memory?
Rockstar by Nickelback
What trend/fad do you wish would come back?
Who was your favorite player to watch growing up?
Morgan Reilly when he played for the Moose Jaw Warriors