Ethan Bear is one of the Oilers’ defensive prospects that everyone has been keeping their eye on since he being drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 Draft. The Nation has high hopes for the young righty and, according to the interview he gave to NHL.com, he is putting just as much pressure on himself as he prepares for his first year as a professional.
Since being selected with the 124th pick in the McDavid Draft of 2015, Ethan Bear has been a fixture in the minds of Oilers fans. Over the past two seasons, the young defenceman has produced well on the offensive side of the puck but has also committed to upgrading his all-around game to become a more well-rounded player. Bear’s improvements were a big part of the Seattle Thunderbirds winning their first WHL Championship even if it’s his offence that always seems to grab people’s attention.
With 70 regular season points (28G, 42A), Bear was the third leading scorer among WHL defenceman in 2016-16 and that offensive prowess has left Oilers fans wondering just how far he is from suiting up for the big squad.
“It was a really good season,” he said. “I was confident in myself the whole way through the season and through the playoffs. I did really well for myself, I’m pretty proud of what I accomplished, but even with the team, coming toward the end of the season and into playoffs, we really came together and that was really good for us.”
While creating offence is important, Bear wanted to improve the defensive side of his game to ensure that he’s not just a one trick kind of player.
“I really wanted to work on my defensive game and I think I did that from 1-on-1s and the way I positioned myself against rushes, and I had a better stick and I think I really improved,” Bear said. “I think last year was a good learning aspect from the defensive side, and offensively, I did some good things as well. I think I just evolved my overall game.”
Bear is still recovering from the surgery that was needed to repair a broken index finger that came as a result of a blocked shot (he only missed three games BTW) but is expected to be ready in time for training camp in September. It will be a tough task to crack the NHL roster out of camp, but it’s a challenge that Bear is looking forward to and one that isn’t outside the realm of possibility. Seeing as the Oilers’ defensive depth chart is shallow on the right side, Ethan Bear has an excellent opportunity to get himself in the mix in relatively short order.
“I’m very confident in my abilities and the player I’ve become,” he said. “I’m maturing and even off the ice I’ve been taking care of myself and all that preparation and what it takes to be a pro. I think I’ve learned all that through the years.”
Personally, I think Ethan Bear is still two or three years away from cracking a starting spot on the Oilers blue line, but he could be worth the wait. The Oilers haven’t had many defensive prospects put up anywhere close to this kind of offence in junior even as over-agers and allowing him to marinate for a couple years as he adjusts to the pro game would be ideal. If Bear keeps progressing as he has over the past couple season then it won’t be long before he plays himself out of the AHL, but let’s not put the cart before the horse here.
In the end, we’re not sure what kind of ceiling Bear has because he’s never played against professionals yet but the fact that he’s a right-handed prospect with some touch is only going to help. It will be interesting to see what kind of season he has in Bakersfield and whether he can still find a way to chip in on the offensive side of the puck against stiffer competition. If he can make himself an invaluable part of the Condors’ blue line during this coming season then scoring Ethan Bear with a fifth round pick could be a late round steal that the Oilers haven’t had in a long time.
As Lowetide always says, we wait.
ETHAN BEAR’S JUNIOR CAREER