Ethan McLaughlin

Penticton native Ethan McLaughlin in action this season with the Adrian College Bulldogs.

Editor’s note: We decided to end 2021 on a positive note by putting together a four-part series featuring four young athletes from the Penticton area who have turned their love of sports into post-secondary educations or careers on the international stage.

After a whirlwind junior hockey career that saw Penticton product Ethan McLaughlin suit up for seven teams in three provinces, he has finally found a roster to call home.

McLaughlin, 21, is midway into his freshman season at Adrian College in Michigan. The blue-liner has three goals and seven points through 19 games for the Bulldogs squad that competes in Division 1 of the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

“I am pretty happy with how I've been playing, but there is still a lot of room for improvement,” said McLaughlin in an email interview over the holiday break, which he’s spending with his family in Penticton.

“I do believe the most important thing for me as a defenceman is playing a responsible 200-foot game and defending well in the D zone. Chipping in offensively as much as I can and getting some points is just a great bonus.”

McLaughlin and the Bulldogs are ranked sixth among 25 teams in the ACHA’s Division 1 on the strength of a 12-4-1 record.

Coach Gary Astalos is pleased with what he’s seen from the new arrival.

“Ethan is very versatile. For us, we are very happy that he has stepped in right away as a freshman to help our team compete every night. He has been strong on the penalty kill for us as well,” said Astalos in an email.

“I think he has really excelled. We have a lot of young guys on our team right now and just adapting to the speed is usually the biggest shift from junior to college. The more Ethan has played, the more confident he has been playing… and more importantly, he had an excellent semester in the classroom as well.”

McLaughlin got serious about the sport in his four seasons with the Okanagan Hockey Academy. In his final campaign there, 2017-18, he was called up for one game as an affiliate player for his hometown Penticton Vees in the B.C. Hockey League.

He split the 2018-19 season between the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks and Alberni Valley Bulldogs, then spent time in the 2019-20 campaign with the Drayton Valley Thunder of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, the Edmundston Blizzard of the Maritime Junior Hockey League, and the Summerland Steam of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.

McLaughlin’s last stop in junior hockey was with the KIJHL’s Nelson Leafs in the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 campaign.

Although his sweaters changed frequently over that stretch, one thing that remained constant was the insight of McLaughlin’s father, Rob, a decorated coach who currently serves as manager of events and power skating for the Okanagan Hockey Academy.

“I am very fortunate and grateful to have a dad who has very insightful knowledge about the game. My dad was a huge part of me developing as a player at a young age, especially with my skating and hard work,” said McLaughlin.

“We always talk on the phone after every game and talk about things that I did well and things that I can still keep working on. For as long as I keep playing he will always be there helping me improve and supporting me.”

And, while McLaughlin’s college hockey career is still in its infancy, he’s giving some thought to his future, recently switching his major from business management to education.

“There is obviously lots of time to change my mind in the years to come,” said McLaughlin, “but as of right now, after hockey I plan on being a teacher and doing as much traveling around the world as I can.”