Photo Credit: Brian Liesse/T-Birds


Ethan Bear put the finishing touches on his junior hockey career this week, as his Seattle Thunderbirds were quickly dispatched by impressive eastern clubs. Although it was a difficult way for the WHL Defenseman of the Year (and nominated for CHL version of same) to finish, Bear can look back on an outstanding career and the opportunity those performances will give him in the future.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below


  • Bear: “It was an incredible experience. Everyone knows how good Edmonton is now, after what they did in the [2017 Stanley Cup] Playoffs, but even when I first got there they had so many great young players. It really showed me how much better I was going to have to become to be able to play at that level.” Source

Bear has worked on his game since draft day and the results (more offense, responsibility) are part of his resume. One of the things he’ll need to constantly work on is foot speed, something all pro defensemen require in the modern game. In this way, Bear and fellow Oilers pick Caleb Jones will be an interesting experiment.


  • Red Line Report Draft Day on Ethan Bear: Shutdown rearguard plays against the opposing teams’ top line every night and refuses to give away even an inch of space. Owns a laser shot that often finds the net – keeps it low and often produces dangerous rebounds. A good skater who likes to take the puck deep into the offensive zone and create chances, yet still has the speed to get back on defence.
  • ISS Draft Day on Caleb Jones:  Much quicker and mobile then he was last season, quick on his feet and uses his edges well when carrying the puck. Although an offensive mindset he doesn’t get ahead of himself in the defensive zone. Strong development upward curve has him as a very intriguing prospect heading into the draft. Although doesn’t possess highend upside he has shown the ability to compete.
Edmonton Oilers Kevin Lowe, Ken Holland named to the Hockey Hall of Fame

Since that day, Jones has added an impressive offensive gear and that speed is on display in every game. Bear has also improved, and has a wider range of skills (sublime passer, big shot from the point), but his foot speed is perhaps a little shy of Jones. We hope both of these players emerge as legit talents and it would be outstanding to see them develop quickly in the AHL. If they can push for NHL employment by fall 2018, the Oilers will be in fine shape at the position.


Griffin Reinhart was chosen No. 4 overall and Jordan Oesterle was never drafted. The biggest gap between the two is speed, with Reinhart’s boots challenging him and Oesterle’s fleet ability probably getting him chances despite defensive chaos.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

When we discuss prospects, increasingly foot speed needs to be prominent in the conversation. Even fast defenders with chaos may pass the slower prospects with a wider range of skills in the coming years. The NHL is faster every year and that impacts the prospect pool all down the line.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    like Craig Button said on the radio this afternoon, if you want the type of D that the Preds or Ducks have, you just have to keep drafting D. Josi, Ekholm, Vatanen, Manson, Montour….all found after the 1st round so there is defensive talent to be found there and hopefully the Oilers have found some of it for themselves in Bear and Jones. hope to God we don’t rush these 2 out of the AHL and let them develop properly !

    • freelancer

      Well said. Whatever some people think of Russell it is irrefutable that he is not a puck moving defense. Chia has seen what a puck moving d can accomplish and hopefully he bolsters the back end in this way this summer

    • Cowbell_Feva

      I’m going to have to disagree with you on Russell. I think he is severely under appreciated. The guy has fantastic wheels. His heart and intensity makes everyone around him better. Just ask Flames management when they traded him to Dallas a few years back at the deadline. They said after the trade the team wasn’t the same, and their record showed it.

      I’d love to see him back, and Chiarelli said the same. I’m not saying he is Erik Karlsson but he has intangibles that not many guys can bring.

  • Aendayana777

    It would be amazing to see these young man continue developing and becoming good and useful defensemen. Lets say in three years time when hopefully we already won a cup and have plenty of money spent already imagine the d Klefbom/Larsson still signed to great & identical contracts Nurse/hopefully Oesterle and Bear/Jones. The top 4 should be formidable while these guys should be cheap. All together it should not cost lot as a unit.

  • madjam

    Let’s see our new younger defense for next year . Jones , Bear , Nurse , Benning , Larsson , Klefbom , and Reinhart with late in season Sekara . Sticking with youth upfront with Puljujarvi and Benson to the mix .

    • Explicit

      I don’t understand why you wanna stop talking about him. It may not have been a good trade to get him and he may never be a top 4 dman, but he’s an oiler! And I cheer for the oilers

    • Big Nuggets

      ya my impression is that he is not very driven to succeed. with his career stalled hopefully he finds some motivation. Im sure Chiarelli has been trying to get him motivated.

    • BlueHairedApe

      Not sure about that. When Klefbom was hurt and was a game time decision Reinhardt was the first to draw in. And played very well under pressure with an assist to help the team win. Blocked some shots and beat up the competition when it mattered. I think that game moved him up the depth chart if you ask me and he’ll get another shot.

    • Connor'sGotHart

      Reinhart may have finally turned the corner. Next season he will play a bigger role maybe sticking with the club after 30 games in the AHLHe did look good in his playoff debut this year and McLellan showed confidence by putting him in there.

  • Connor'sGotHart

    No reason to rush either one of these guys. We have a good defensive unit as was shown in the playoffs. These two dman will be given the opportunity to play in the AHL and properly fine tune their skills.

    • OriginalPouzar

      Both Bear and Jones are years away from the NHL, if ever.

      Very nice prospects but, at this point in time, just prospects.

      I’m iffy on Bear ever becoming an every day NHL player but your never know.

      Jones has better shot of that, in my opinion, due to his skating.

      Add Z. Paigin to the mix and, even, Ryan Mantha, and we have a good crop of rookie pro d-men this year in the minors (Paigin not quite a rookie pro but a rookie NA pro).

      Main reason Griffin was not called up during the season was his bonus contract – Oil will already have a bonus penalty on the cap this coming year.

      He is waiver eligible and will very likely be on the roster come October, if not taken in expansion.

      He has had 2 disappointing training camps in this organization and I look for him to come in focused and dedicated in September.

  • RJ

    Such a difference in two years. A potential CHL defenceman of the year with a “laser shot” and there are no calls to rush him into the starting lineup.

    But with the league moving towards speedy puckmovers on the backend, it looks tough for a Reinhart or Fayne to bust in next season.


      What is this talk of not rushing young players into the NHL and making players compete to make the team instead of gifting out roster spots?! It’s music to my ears.

        • RJ

          Your question is a bit of a misnomer.

          Yes, Draisatl was one of the four best centres on the team in his rookie year, but as we can all see now, he wasn’t ready in draft +1 to play and contribute.

          A team with some depth would let him develop at his own pace until he was ready not just to make the roster but bring quality.

          Puljujarvi is another example. When he’s finally ready to play full-time in the NHL he will have benefitted from time in the AHL.

        • SRELIOFAN

          Are you joking!? The Oilers have gifted more roster spots to players in the Decade of Darkness than Santa has gifted presents to children. Draisaitl, Puljujarvi, and Yakupov are prime examples, but there are so many more. But those days are hopefully over!