EVERETT — Around Angel of the Winds Arena, Conrad Mitchell is mostly referred to by his nickname: “Diesel.” And at one point earlier this year, the Everett Silvertips were worried about his engine — or more specifically, his ticker.
Mitchell, a forward, missed eight games earlier this season with what was listed as an upper-body injury, but it was no shoulder strain or concussion. He was experiencing an irregular heartbeat during workouts and practices and his future in hockey, at least for the moment, was in doubt.
As kid from Thorsby, a town in central Alberta with a population just south of 1,000, Mitchell dreamed of playing at the highest-level of hockey. At 18 years of age, he was one the first rung of the climb toward that dream, playing for the Silvertips in the Western Hockey League.
Then he was told his dream could be in jeopardy.
“This is what I want to do for a career, if this doesn’t go right, then what do I got? You know?” Mitchell said. “So yeah, it was really scary.”
Mitchell said he started experiencing an irregular heartbeat toward the end of last season, but it wasn’t major enough to keep him out.
When Mitchell returned in the fall, and his heart continued to flutter and beat rapidly, especially after physical exertion, it was decided by the Silvertips’ team doctors that it would be wise to undergo extensive tests. Just to make sure.
The waiting was excruciating, Mitchell said, but it ended with good news: Mitchell’s ailment was not life-threatening and he could return to the ice.
“This is just a game, when you think about it. That’s all it is,” Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams said. “He saw everyone he needed to see and got double-, triple-, quadruple-checked. You can’t really get enough second and third opinions. But you know, he stayed the course, he stayed positive and he was at the rink everyday. He’s one of those guys that the players really gravitate to.”
Not only has Mitchell’s presence in the locker room been felt this season, he’s also made an impact on the ice.
With two goals in 13 games this season, Mitchell already has doubled his goal total from last year. He’s been a fixture on Everett’s checking line as a capable forechecker and he’s a handful along the walls with his 6-foot-6, 230-pound frame.
“He’s got that reach,” Williams said. “I always tell him, ‘You’re blessed with something a lot of guys aren’t.’ … I see him moving into a penalty-kill role (at some point) with his reach. I wouldn’t want him barreling down on me when it’s a 50-50 puck and I look up and I got ‘Diesel’ coming. I still think he’s kind of getting into that realm of playing consistently every night and and playing more minutes.”
Selected in the seventh round by the Silvertips in the 2016 WHL bantam draft, Mitchell was a point-per-game player for most of his midget and bantam career, most notably racking up 35 points in 35 games for the Leduc Oil Kings minor midget team in 2017. Mitchell played in the Telus Cup, the national midget tournament in Canada, for the Leduc Oil Kings in 2017.
His first season in the WHL was a learning year for Mitchell, but Williams said Mitchell’s comfort level has improved in his sophomore season.
“With a player year-to-year, they get stronger, they get faster and they get more confident,” Williams said. “I think that’s one area of the game he’s got to continue to work on is his hands and in tight spaces … but he’s putting a lot of time in. He spent a lot of time last year out with Hoodie (former assistant coach Harry Mahood) and this year with (assistant coach) Mike (Lysyj) after practice. … The way the game’s played, it’s hard for a guy that big. But his strengths are in different areas, like puck protection, being able to hold the puck and getting a guy off (the puck).”
Josh Horton covers the Silvertips for the Herald. Follow him on Twitter, @joshhortonEDH