On Thursday night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets, the Edmonton Oilers young defenseman Ethan Bear had his coming-out party. In the best night of NHL career, he scored two goals and didn’t look out of place at all. Will he make the opening-day roster of the Oilers? It looks as if he has a chance.
In fact, it all but seems Bear has a lock on making the roster because his biggest rival for that position, Joel Persson, sustained a shoulder injury that could keep him out of the line-up for better than a week. That’s bad for Persson, but good for Bear.
David Staples’ Take on Bear’s Situation
In a lengthy and informative article (“Knock knock. Who’s there? Ethan Bear, Edmonton Oilers d-man,” David Staples, Edmonton Journal, 9/28/19) that reviews Bear’s progress, Staples reports that Bear came to the Oilers’ preseason camp much leaner, faster, and more agile after a summer of hard work with David Pelletier, the Oilers’ skating coach.
Obviously, that extra step Bear picked up has helped him stand out on the Oilers roster. Although that doesn’t mean the Oilers’ brain trust won’t send him back to the AHL, so far it’s looking good for the young defenseman. He’s starting to look like an up-and-coming NHL defenseman. And, that’s something the Oilers really could use.
As Staples reports, he’s surprised most Oilers’ “observers,” who never would have guessed he could progress so quickly. In this season’s preseason, he’s been teamed with Oscar Klefbom to create an Oilers’ offensive, defensemen pairing. Staples also suggests that Bear is a “Poster Boy” for the belief that young players should spend time at the AHL level getting their game together before they come to the big club.
And, that’s just what Bear did. After a great career in the Western Hockey League with the Seattle Thunderbirds, he’s played the last two seasons with the Bakersfield Condors. There he developed both his game and his swagger.
As a result, Bear has likely become a shoo-in for an opening-night roster spot – especially after his performance on Thursday against the Jets. He scored the game-tying goal in the third period and added an insurance tally 8:50 later to help secure the win. With Joel Persson (shoulder) out and Evan Bouchard assigned to AHL Bakersfield, Bear’s in the driver’s seat for a chance to skate alongside Oscar Klefbom.
The 22-year-old posted six goals and 25 helpers in 52 contests in the minors last season, so he’s definitely capable of adding team offense from the blue line – especially on the power play. His strong passing can really help the team own the puck in the offensive end.
Gene Principe’s Take on the Edmonton Oilers’ Training Camp Attitude
In a post by today (September 29) by Gene Principe on the Edmonton Oilers official website, Principe noted that he looked at Ethan Bear as Exhibit A of this season’s training camp as having a new – and more positive – attitude.
Principe noted that Bear couldn’t “Bear to watch another camp go by with a one-way ticket to Bakersfield. Instead, he not only might start the season on the team but also on the blueline around on October 2. He’s impressed with his play and his commitment to being an NHLer. It clear he’s not gone unnoticed or unrewarded.”
That’s good news for the Oilers roster and for its fans.
Ethan Bear’s History with the Oilers
Bear has been up and down with the Oilers. He was recalled from Bakersfield in the spring of 2018, but struggled on defense. So, last season when Edmonton needed a puck-moving defenseman and Bear was injured, the Oilers promoted Bear’s AHL teammate Caleb Jones. To Jones’ credit, he took advantage of the job and performed much better in the NHL than Bear had.
However, at the same time in Bakersfield, Bear started to chalk up points. His success there has helped him prepare for this season. Now, we come to the present, and Bear has played well during training camp – even in the face of strong competition from Evan Bouchard and Joel Persson.
Where Is Bear Now in the Edmonton Oilers Plans?
Bear has looked good and, all things considered, should make the team. But, it isn’t done until it’s done.
Bear has been moving faster and is reading the game better on defense. His offensive game is sharp. He’s an amazing passer and, with the Oilers’ speed, home run stretch passes seem like they should be part of the team’s lesson plan.
One downside is that Bear has struggled to stay away from injuries, and the jury is out if he can endure the rigors of a full NHL season. But, he’s improved and is growing older, wiser, and stronger. He has upped his defensive skill and has looked more ready for the next step in his career.
Where that career takes him with the Oilers no one knows on Sunday, September 29, 2019. However, here at NHL Trade Talk, we hope the young defenseman from Regina, Saskatchewan, catches on for good with the Oilers. He might just be a missing piece of the team’s roster that could be counted on for a long time.
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