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.
FIRST OILERS TRAINING CAMP
- 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.
DRAFT DAY SCOUTING REPORTS
- 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.
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.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
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.
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.