Make no mistake the Edmonton Oilers are looking for sophomore defenceman Ethan Bear to take that next step.
Bear, who was raised on the Ochapowace Nation in southern Saskatchewan, is coming off a solid rookie campaign which saw him finish 10th in Calder Trophy voting and fifth among rookies with 21 points, proving to be quite the inspirational story. Last year Bear came into Oilers training camp as a 22- year-old facing long odds of making the team. Showing perseverance Bear, who was selected fifth round, 124 overall in the 2015 NHL Draft, made a statement with his strong play during the 2019 training camp.
“He seized the opportunity last year and good for him, and his play went along well all year,” Oilers coach Dave Tippett said. “The expectations of how he was going to play were imperative to our team playing well. It’s no different than last year. At the start of the year everyone was surprised, but by the second half of the year he was in his role- playing big minutes and doing a good job.”
Tippett went on to add, “That’s exactly what we need him to do this year. He has to come in and make sure he’s doing his part and the expectations we have for him. I think his game will continue to grow, but it’s not as if we’re asking him to come here and change his game. We want him to play similar as he did last year.”
During that rookie 2019-2020 season Bear, who came in with 18 NHL games played with Edmonton under his belt, scored five goals, 16 assists along with 33 penalty minutes and a -4 plus/minus rating in 71 games played. Life is good for Bear who arrived this year in training camp for the shortened 56 game season armed with a new contract and a spot on the roster. The Oilers have made it clear that they are expecting the 5’11” 197- pound Bear to be among the top four defenceman. Oilers opened the season on Wednesday, January 13, with a 5-3 home loss against the Vancouver Canucks. During the opener Bear, who was paired up with his usual partner Darnell Nurse, had two hits, two blocked shots and assisted on the second goal as he also logged 23:11 of ice time. Last season Bear excelled at blocking shots as he had 106 in his 71 games played. While the Oilers might not be ready to take that next step in contending, fans have reason to be excited as they can now add Ethan Bear among the homegrown talented young players ready to take that next step.