2009-10: Mitch Wheaton had 22 points in 25 games playing bantam AAA hockey for the Sherwood Park Flyers in suburban Edmonton. He was selected by Kelowna in the 10th round (207th overall) of the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft.
2010-11: Wheaton made the jump to the Sherwood Park Kings Midget AAA team as a 15-year-old. In 31 games he had 8 assists and 55 penalty minutes. The Kings reached the provincial semifinals. Wheaton scored his first goal of the season in the playoffs and had 16 penalty minutes in 10 playoff games.
2011-12: Wheaton joined the Spruce Grove Saints in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. After seeing limited ice time early in the year his ice time steadily increased. He finished the season with 7 goals and 7 assists in 45 games and had 62 penalty minutes. The Saints reached the playoff finals and Wheaton scored 1 goal with 2 assists in 11 playoff games.
2012-13: Wheaton went to training camp with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets before returning to Spruce Grove. After one game with the Saints he decided to forego college hockey and signed with Kelowna, where he spent the rest of the season. He skated in 39 games for the Rockets before suffering a shoulder injury that kept him out until the playoffs — scoring 1 goal with 7 assists and finishing +20 with 27 penalty minutes. The Rockets finished first in the B.C. Division and reached the second round in the playoffs. After missing the first round, Wheaton returned for the four-game series with Kamloops and was -2 with no points and 4 penalty minutes. Wheaton was ranked 69th amongst North American skaters in the Central Scouting final rankings and was selected by Detroit in the fifth round (139th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft.
2013-14: Wheaton skated in 57 of 72 games for Kelowna in his second WHL season — missing time with in November 2014 after suffering an upper-body injury on a hit from Seattle’s Roberts Lipsbergs. He scored 7 goals with 21 assists and was +31 with 38 penalty minutes. The Rockets finished first in the B.C. Division and reached the Western Conference Finals, falling to Portland. Wheaton had 5 assists and was +3 with 8 penalty minutes in 14 playoff games.
2014-15: Wheaton appeared in four regular season games with Kelowna after returning from Detroit’s training camp — undergoing shoulder surgery in October 2014 that kept him out for the rest of the regular season. He had 1 assist and was +1 with 6 penalty minutes. Kelowna finished first in the B.C. Division and had the WHL’s second-best record behind East Division champion Brandon.
Wheaton has the prototypical size of an NHL defenseman and moves well laterally for a player his size. He uses his long reach to stymie opponents and is sound in his own end. His puck handling and passing skills, particularly on the breakout, have improved since his early days of junior hockey. Shoulder issues have limited his development — he missed all but four games in 2014-15 due to surgery.
Wheaton missed parts of his first two junior seasons due to shoulder issues. Expected to play a big role with Kelowna in his third year, he underwent surgery in October 2014 that kept him out the rest of the 2014-15 season. He is yet to sign an entry-level contract with Detroit and would re-enter the 2015 NHL Draft if not signed by June. Wheaton is eligible to return to Kelowna for an overage season next year and given the time he is missed — whether he is signed by the Red Wings or not — that seems likely. Long-term his size and skating ability suggest he can be a shutdown defenseman at the NHL level one day.