Ah, Ethan Bear.
A fifth-round pick turned regular NHL’er, Bear has been nothing short of a revelation in his rookie season. At 22-years-old, he stepped in playing a second-pairing role with Darnell Nurse scoring 21 points in 71 games.
Not only did he contribute strong offence for a rookie rearguard, but he also helped steady a veteran in Nurse — far from the norm for a rookie to do. He became a rock for the Oilers on the backend with solid isolated defensive impacts with the majority of time played against elite competition, according to puckiq.com.
He progressed well, and quickly, taking on more and more minutes as the season went on. This is all really encouraging for the young Oilers defenceman who will surely be a big part of the Oilers blueline for a long time.
Against Chicago and into the playoffs
Against the Blackhawks in the play-in tournament, I see Bear continuing in his second pairing role alongside Darnell Nurse. I can see the Oilers deploying this pairing against the Blackhawks first line of Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik, as reported by dailyfaceoff.com.
I think these two will match up better against that line than the line of Alex Nylander, Dylan Strome and Patrick Kane, who I think the Oilers will match Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson against. The Oilers third pair, whoever that will be, should easily handle either of the Blackhawks bottom-six players.
Bear will likely continue to see time on the Oilers penalty kill. There he played the third-most minutes among Oilers rearguard and had strong success. I don’t expect that to change at all.
Ethan Bear will spend his time doing what he’s done best this year — moving the puck and playing solid defence. It doesn’t sound like much, but his two-way play has been really good for the Oilers. Like, a breath of fresh air really good.
I’m a big Bear fan, and to be honest, I have fairly big expectations of what’s to come from him. He plays a very good solid game and shown he can be a strong regular contributor in the Oilers lineup. He’ll continue to push 24 minutes a night as he did towards the end of the season.
On Twitter: @zjlaing