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Photo Credit: Brian Liesse/T-Birds

Ethan Bear is ready to make the jump to pro hockey

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.”

THE WRAP

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

Regular Season Playoffs
Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/- GP G A Pts PIM
2012-13 Seattle Thunderbirds WHL 1 0 0 0 0 0
2013-14 Seattle Thunderbirds WHL 58 6 13 19 18 1 9 2 2 4 6
2014-15 Seattle Thunderbirds WHL 69 13 25 38 23 1 6 1 2 3 0
2015-16 Seattle Thunderbirds WHL 69 19 46 65 33 14 18 8 14 22 8
2016-17 Seattle Thunderbirds WHL 67 28 42 70 21 34 17 6 20 26 12

 

  • CODD_FATHER

    Great kid with some terrific offensive skills. But in no way do i want to see him playing for the Oil next yr. Let him marinate in the AHL for a yr or 2. We no longer have to rush the youngsters.

    • bazmagoo

      I agree. We’ve got 9 defencemen on the roster with NHL experience. He’d really have to blow it out of the water to make the team, and zero need to rush the kid. Let him marinate in the lower levels for a while.

  • Spydyr

    Give him a few preseason games if he earns it in camp. Then down to the AHL if he plays well there call him up for a cup of coffee after Christmas to give him a taste of the show . Then back down to the AHL to mature and develop as a player.

    • OriginalPouzar

      I would think he’d likely get at least one pre-season game.

      I’m not even sure that cup of coffee is realistic this year – Bear will likely struggle with the transition to the speed of pro hockey – I hope Oiler fans don’t exaggerate what that means, its to be expected.

      In my opinion, if any of the new Condor D gets a cup of coffee, it will be Jones – I think his speed gives him the edge at this point (maybe Paigan as he’s played against men but he’s a huge unknown for me).

      • Spydyr

        Even if Bear does not play a game when he gets his cup of coffee I feel it is important to show a young prospect what life is like in the NHL. The travel, the best hotels, the meals, the rinks ,the whole kit and caboodle of life in the show. It can be a very good motivator.

        • OriginalPouzar

          Oh, I assumed you meant with games played – I can see what you are saying but I’m not sure the organization would bring him up just for the experience. Got to assume this would only happen if there was an injury and there was a chance the call-up would need to play. Maybe he’s the best option at the time though. Guess we’ll see.

        • Dreadguy

          I agree with Spydyr. It would be great to have Bear up practicing with the team at least once this season, preferably when the games matter. Maybe it’s just my man-crush, but I think that being around Connor and crew is likely to help anyone. This isn’t even close to the same caliber, but when I played hockey (tier II junior – goaltender), there was one practice when Ray Whitney was on the ice with us. Dude lit me up at will. Everything I did seemed to only make it worse. I learned more in that hour than I did the rest of the season. Ideally, all Oilers prospects should get one “soak it all in” experience.

      • fasteddy

        Seeing Jr dmen that have made it to the big team in their first couple years out of jr, (almost none), I’d be shocked if it doesn’t take Bear some time. He doesn’t skate as well as the top prospects, is one reason he lasted to 5th round….that will take some time and supreme conditioning to make up for.

  • OriginalPouzar

    As a rookie pro, I expect Bear to struggle a bit in the AHL through the first half of the season but to improve and continue to develop as the season goes on. This organization has a history of not giving rookie pros significant ice time in the AHL but I hope that changes this years (and it likely has to with Bear, Jones and Paigan slotted in for the Condors – likely Mantha as well but he could start in the ECHL).

    Hopefully the big club can stay healthy so that Simpson (and Fayne and Stanton) can stay in the AHL and be a great mentor to those young kids.

    4 nice rookie pro d-prospects this year – can’t wait to see how they develop in the next few years.

  • Oiler Al

    Never seen the guy play,but have heard the hype on the guy,mostly from Edmonton,.His box # are fantastic . Trying to figure out why he was a fifth rounder.There were 33 defense men picked ahead of him?Why?

    • Shadesof97

      His production doubled from draft to draft+1 and I believe he is supposed to have some speed issues, though I didnt see any of that when I watched him during the playoffs. Honestly, I was most impressed on his play around his net, getting in the way and making loose pucks, as well as him playing point on the powerplay. There was a beautiful play against Regina where he passed to the right side, prevented a loose breakout on the left when there was a fumble, moved it to the right quickly got it back and one timed it onto the goalie for a net scramble resulting in a goal. It was everything I wanted to see, vision, a shot, and preventing those puck dumps from leaving the o-zone

  • oilfan4ever

    We haven’t had a power play point man with this kind of slapper from the point since Sheldon Souray. With his offensive ability he only needs to be average defensively to be a star. It is probably too much to hope that he will excel on both sides of the puck. Bakers field fans are in for a treat watching this young dcorp develop.

    • Shadesof97

      We will see how it all translates but I was impressed with his play in his own zone to be honest. He was a dominant player during the playoffs including playing the whole Regina series with a friggen broken finger. His memorial cup was profoundly dissapointing though. As was the whole team mind you but he was a completely different player

      • OriginalPouzar

        I remember being quite excited to watch Seattle and Bear in the Memorial Cup and, yes, it was disappointing – the team was outclassed and neither the team nor Bear were able to get on track.

        I look forward to seeing him at camp.

  • Hemi

    Nice to realize that we have good/decent/excellent prospects in the system. As the Oil progress along into successful years, drawing from within (Condors) will be an essential part of maintaining such. Bear will no doubt be in the show within a couple of years.

  • madjam

    Looking at his videos , Ethan seems to have ample (an abundance) NHL talent offensively , but questionable NHL defensive ability . Does not appear to be overly physical or a good shot blocker as yet . A good option for power play (RD) and perhaps as a winger in limited circumstances . Not sold ( uneasy) on Ethan’s defensive ability as yet . Creative, pinches well , and good shot offensively . If he shows well enough defensively , I could see him up with main club just for his offensive talent as a 7-8 th defenceman . Caleb seems to have more defensive ability , a little more physical , but less offensive ability at this stage . They could end up being a good combo .

  • oldTymeOilerfan

    Bear: not the next Paul Coffey, but maybe the next Matt Benning? Something about the kid’s persona makes me think he will get called up a few times this season…and depending on injuries, he could stay up.

    • OriginalPouzar

      I think Jones is the more likely call-up from the new Condors – his upper echelon skating gives him the leg up.

      In reality, they are many injuries away from a call-up – behind each of Simpson, Stanton and Fayne.