The Edmonton Oilers drafted a hidden fifth-round gem in Ethan Bear back in 2015, and now, he is ready to elevate his game to the next level.
With a three-year, entry-level contract, the 20-year-old will delve into the Oilers organization this season. Not only will he attend his third training camp with the team, but he could very well actually compete for time in the NHL this season.
Though he is still young, and just finished his last WHL season, he as grown at a tremendous rate and continues to show promise moving forward. In fact, 2017’s WHL defenceman of the year is making a case to possibly jump straight to the NHL.
First off, Bear has shown outstanding ability and growth. He had 13 goals and 38 points through 69 games in his pre-draft 2014-15 campaign. After being selected by the Oilers, Bear’s scoring totals increased tremendously, and he is now one of the league’s top defensive prospects.
This past season, he finished with 28 goals and 70 points in 67 games, and weas a plus-34. He also led all defencemen with 20 playoff assists as he led his Seattle Thunderbirds to a WHL championship.
With his quick learning and growth, as well as his maturity, ability and passion for the game, Bear has what it takes to transition to a league like the NHL. He can put up points and adapt to any role, and given his skill-set, he could be in the running to crack the main roster.
Pros and Cons
Looking at the Oilers depth chart, they could also benefit from Bear seeing time at the NHL level. With Andrej Sekera injured, Kris Russell will likely switch to his natural left side on the top-four. Matthew Benning will likely take Russell’s spot on the right-side, and there will be a vacancy ont the bottom-pairing right side. Eric Gryba could show his potential to keep that spot, but with Bear’s scoring and puck-moving ability, he could beat him out for that ice time to start the year.
Still, Edmonton may want to let Bear develop properly, and have him go through all the ranks before seeing NHL ice time. Therefore, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him start the year with the Bakersfield Condors.
At the AHL level, Bear will not only flourish, but get more ice time and probably play top-pairing minutes as opposed to limited ice time at the NHL level. Additionally, the 5-foot-11, 198-pound blueliner has a smaller frame, and may need time to adjust to the speed and size that comes at the higher levels. Plus, with the Condors, he could play well enough to earn call-up opportunities, meaning he could still see time in the NHL this year.
Overall, Bear is flourishing into an oustanding defender and shows plenty of promise, and is one player that is definitely on the Oilers radar heading into this season.