Twenty-two year old Ethan Bear believes he’s never been more prepared to make the jump to the NHL.
Bear was born in Regina, Saskatchewan and raised in the Oshapowace Nation near Whitewood, Saskatchewan. But in his debut, he faced criticism from hockey fans for being a “lazy” player, but that motivated him to work harder. He drew inspiration from his brother and other Indigenous hockey players, including Carey Price, Jordin Tootoo, Brandon Montour, Arron Asham and Micheal Ferland.
Bear played 18 games for the Edmonton Oilers late in the 2017-18 season. He suffered a shoulder injury early last season but still finished with 31 points in 52 games for the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors. Along the way, the Condors also enjoyed a 17-game winning streak.
Drafted in the fifth round in 2015, Bear was once one of the top blue-line prospects for the Oilers. It’s now a much more crowded pool, with other young defence-men like Caleb Jones, Evan Bouchard, Dmitri Samorukov, Joel Persson, and William Lagesson all hoping to crack the Oilers roster soon. Plus, the Oilers drafted Philip Broberg in the first round in June.
Bear scored his first NHL goal back in 2018, and although the Oilers lost, for Bear it was a moment he’ll never forget. He finished off a cross ice pass from Connor McDavid on the power play to give the Oilers a 4-3 lead with 7:43 remaining in the third period.
For this years Oilers training camp, the organization had to have been thrilled to see Bear show up to camp in the physical condition he did. After coming to last year’s training camp in less than ideal playing shape and battling injury for much of the first half of his season with the Bakersfield Condors, it looked as if the Regina native may have blown his opportunity to make another impression at the NHL level.
Despite struggling in his own end of the rink during his brief stint with the Oilers in 2017-18, Bear proved to be quite capable in two areas this roster desperately lacks. His ability to move the puck up ice and consistently unleash a heavy and accurate shot from the point was hard not to notice.
In other words, Ethan Bear could not have picked a better time to hit the ground running and prove that he belongs in the NHL. He may not be the name fans or those within the organization were expecting to push for playing time but the player clearly recognized the opportunity at hand and appears poised to make a legitimate run at grabbing a spot and not letting go.