When Ethan Bowen transitioned to junior hockey, he didn’t have to travel far to his home. He’s spent the last four seasons in his hometown, playing for the Chilliwack Chiefs in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL).
“Watching them when I was younger (and) growing up and going to every single one of their games, it’s always in the back of your mind that you want to be a Chilliwack Chief one day,” said Bowen last week via video call. “The fact that I got to play on the team and be there for four years, it’s pretty special to me. That I’ve been able to live at home and play junior hockey and eat some home-cooked meals, it’s been a really good experience, and I can’t thank the Chiefs enough for everything that they’ve done.”
Not only has Bowen been able to stay close to home during his junior hockey career, he even got to play alongside his brother, Ryan. In fact, Ethan’s first BCHL goal was assisted by Ryan. Ethan was 15 at the time and playing as an affiliated player for the Chiefs, while Ryan was 19 and had just returned from playing with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the Western Hockey League (WHL).
“We had never played in a hockey game with each other before, so it was pretty cool to play on his line,” said Ethan. “It was a pretty cool moment to share that with him and be able to hug him in the celebration.”
The younger Bowen is now the same age as his brother when the two played together in Chilliwack but has already reached the same height, standing at 6-foot-2.
“I was always a bigger kid growing up, so I was a lot taller than everyone else, so I just thought it would be the best position to suit my type of game,” said Bowen when asked about how he ended up as a center.” I felt like that’s where I could get the puck the most and create things the most.”
Bowen Looking to Improve
In terms of the way he plays, Bowen made it a point that he wanted to become a more well-rounded player before his time with the Chiefs ended, a 200-foot player, if you will. He cited his ability to be below the puck in the defensive zone as well as his tendency to pick pucks up in the corners as two of his strong points and admitted that he could be better about his defensive positioning at times.
“My game is pretty simple,” said Bowen. “I’m a big forward, I play physical (and) I like to get my shot off, so if I’m doing all of those things, then I’m playing a pretty good game.”
Bowen also emphasized his tendency of “looping,” where he would often curl around while skating instead of stopping and starting. “I need to cut that out and just do stops and starts from point A to point B, I feel like I can get to pucks quicker, and I would use a lot less energy.”
Bowen’s Draft Day and The Road to Development Camp
Bowen was selected in the seventh round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft by the Anaheim Ducks, part of a Ducks draft class that included Jamie Drysdale and Jacob Perreault, two players that have already made their NHL debuts. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bowen could not attend the draft in person and spent the day at home watching the draft on TV, anxiously waiting to see his name pop up on the screen.
“It was probably one of the most nerve-wracking days of my life. I was just sitting on my phone the whole time, watching the draft, hoping to see my name pop up, and then finally it did, and I got the call from Anaheim.
“It was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. You grow up watching the NHL, and you just hope that one day you’ll get to be a part of it some way or another, so as soon as they called me, it quickly registered that I’m part of an NHL organization. It was a very cool experience, and that’s something that I’ll never forget.”
Unlike Drysdale and Perreault, Bowen has yet to attend one of the Ducks’ development camps held annually during the summer in Southern California. The camp in 2020 wasn’t held due to the pandemic—Bowen also hadn’t even been drafted at the time either—and 2021’s camp was held in the fall when players like Bowen were already preparing for their regular season.
But he is eager to make an impression and desperately wants to be able to attend this summer’s camp—if it’s indeed held in the summer this year.
“If they give me the invitation, I’ll be down there the next day,” Bowen laughed. “Plane down there the next day for sure. It’s something I’ve actually thought about a lot, and it’s something that I want to experience—an NHL camp—and what they’re about and what you can do to become a professional athlete.”
He wouldn’t be the first seventh-round pick to impress the Ducks at development camp either if he did so. 2014 NHL Entry Draft pick Ondrej Kase turned heads with his performances and turned that into four seasons with the Ducks before being dealt to the Boston Bruins during the 2018-19 season.
Bowen’s Next Stop: College Hockey
With this season being his final one with the Chiefs, Bowen will be heading off to play collegiate hockey at the University of Vermont next season after committing to the school last month. He had previously committed to the University of North Dakota when he was 16 but ultimately decided that the fit wasn’t right for him.
“I was pretty excited when I was a 16-year-old to commit to a school like that, but when you grow up, and you get more mature, you’ll realize that it’s about fit and not about the locker room and the facilities, and that’s what kind of wowed me with North Dakota.
“I have a lot more opportunity going into Vermont as a freshman than I would at North Dakota, so I just thought for my hockey career that it would be best to step into a team where I’m playing right away rather than maybe (being) in and out of the lineup.”
Bowen said that he’s looking forward to meeting all of his new teammates and that while it will be difficult balancing schoolwork with hockey, he’s still looking forward to it all.
He won’t be the first player from the Chiefs who’s been drafted and then made the jump to collegiate hockey. Former teammates Nikita Nesterenko and Cooper Moore are now playing for Boston College and North Dakota, respectively, and Bowen has been able to take away little things from their time at the college level.
“Nikita’s a great guy, he came to Chilliwack, and no one really knew that much about him, but he came to Chilliwack, and he started lightning it up here, and everybody started to realize who he was and what he’s about, so a lot of people started following him.
“Coop, I actually talked to him yesterday (Feb. 15), and he’s doing really (well). He said North Dakota’s a blast, and they just treat it like it’s the NHL down there, he said he already feels like he’s in the NHL. He’s actually having a really good year too. He was in and out of the lineup last year, which was to be expected if you go to a school like that, but this year he’s been in the lineup, and he’s been on the power play, and he loves it. He says he loves the way things are run down there, and he loves the school, so he’s having himself a blast.”
Kienan Draper, one of Bowen’s current teammates, will also be making the jump to collegiate hockey next season at the University of Michigan. Draper is currently third on the Chiefs in points, just ahead of Bowen, who sits in fourth.
“He’s a workhorse, that’s all you need to know about him,” said Bowen. “He’s the first guy on the ice, last guy to leave the ice, first guy in the gym, last guy to leave the gym. He’s just doing everything in his power to make himself better, and a lot of guys on my team look up to him for his work ethic.”
Bowen Has Fond Memories of Chilliwack
Currently, on pace to set a new career-high in points this season, Bowen is also now one of the leaders on the Chiefs, one of three assistant captains on this season’s team. Being a leader was something that Bowen always wanted to do, and to do it for his hometown team made it even more special.
“(The coaching staff) want the right guys to be leading their team, so it was actually a really big honor for me to become an assistant captain and (for) them to recognize the stuff I’ve been doing for the past four years.”
Bowen says that his favorite memory as a Chief is when the team placed first in the BCHL during his first season with the Chiefs. “That was the first time the Chilliwack Chiefs had done that in probably 12-13 years, so it’s been a while since they’ve been able to do that, and my first year we did that, so that was pretty cool.”
Bowen’s Off-Ice Activities
Bowen enjoys fishing and watching football when he’s not on the ice. His favorite NFL team, the Seattle Seahawks, are just about two and a half hours drive away from Chilliwack, while his favorite NHL team, the Vancouver Canucks, are about an hour and a half five away. He can’t stop watching The Office (“it’s by far my favorite show”), and he’s been watching a lot of Ozark as well. “It’s up there with The Office, it’s really good. The first episode you’re hooked, it’s so good.”
Bowen said he spends a lot of time watching Mark Stone of the Vegas Golden Knights when he watches the NHL and wants to model his game after the former Ottawa Senator. “I love watching (Nathan) MacKinnon, Stone and (Brock) Boeser, so it’s a little bit of everything, MacKinnon’s got the speed and the hands, Boeser’s got the shot (and) Stone’s got the character, so I watch to watch those three and just take a little bit from each one.”
With just over a month left in the BCHL regular season, the Chiefs have a good shot at securing a high playoff seed. Bowen will be one of the players relied on most down the home stretch, and he will surely be striving to finish out his junior hockey career on a high note.
Derek has been a hockey fan for over 10 years and a sports fan in general for more than two decades.
Prior to graduating from UCCS in Colorado Springs, CO in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Communication, he spent two and a half years as part of UCCS’ on-campus student newspaper staff–both as a sports reporter and editor. He is now creating Ducks-related content from his home in Southern California.
In his free time he enjoys playing FIFA, watching video essays on YouTube and curating his Spotify playlists.