Ethan Bear is one of four defensemen who offer both impressive skills and at least one thing that could keep each of them from an NHL career. Although I have ranked Bear No. 6, there is (imo) little clearance between No. 2 and No. 8 on this year’s list. Bear’s headman passing, excellent shot from the point, defensive coverage and improvement since draft day have him headed in a good direction.
PREVIOUSLY NO. 6 ON THE WINTER LIST
- December 2004: R Colin McDonald (145 NHL games)
- December 2005: D Matt Greene (597 NHL games)
- December 2006: D Tom Gilbert (648 NHL games)
- December 2007: C Kyle Brodziak (713 NHL games)
- December 2008: L Liam Reddox (100 NHL games)
- December 2009: L Linus Omark (79 NHL games)
- December 2010: L Curtis Hamilton (1 NHL game)
- December 2011: G Tyler Bunz (1 NHL game)
- December 2012: D Martin Gernat
- December 2013: C Bogdan Yakimov (1 NHL game)
- December 2014: R Greg Chase
- December 2015: G Laurent Brossoit (6 NHL games)
The Oilers produced some quality in this range early in the century, a decade ago. Matt Greene, Tom Gilbert and Kyle Brodziak represent exactly what this team needs now—players chosen outside Round 1 who emerge as useful players. Unfortunately, no one in recent seasons has been able to emerge from the pack.
WHAT THEY SAID ON DRAFT DAY
- Red Line Report: Shutdown rearguard plays against the opposing teams’ top line every night and refuses to give away even an inch of space. Owns a laser shot that often finds the net – keeps it low and often produces dangerous rebounds. A good skater who likes to take the puck deep into the offensive zone and create chances, yet still has the speed to get back on defence.
- Corey Pronman: He’s not a really flashy guy, I don’t think he’s won a major accolade or anything of the sort. He was consistently impressive this season, especially against his own age group. I thought he looked good at the Ivan Hlinka and U18’s, he looked like one of the better 1997 defensemen. Throughout the entire WHL season he was very good—not amazing, but steady in both ends. He could move the puck, he played hard and showed good hockey sense on both sides of the puck.
- Black Book: He prefers to use outlet passes, which he is very good at delivering to his teammates—sometimes sending the puck tape-to-tape from his own goalline to the opposition’s blueline.
- McKeens: Strong, physical defender – solidly-built and a tenacious competitor .. not flashy skill wise, however makes smart plays and packs a powerful shot.
- ISS: Does a lot of things well, but mainly plays a strong defensive and physical game. Strong in front of the net and along the boards, doesn’t run around in the defensive zone and has good positioning.
- Summer 2015: No. 10
- Winter 2015: No. 9
- Summer 2016: No. 6
- Winter 2016: No. 6
I had Bear as a second-round pick on my 2015 draft list, so also had him high in the top 20 in the days after his selection. He’s covered that bet over an 18-month period now, suspect we are dealing with a legit NHL prospect. There are things he needs to work on (skating, and it is improving) but he is a good defender, can move the puck and has an excellent shot that gives him some PP potential (15 power-play goals in 84 games).
- Bruce McCurdy: The puck went through his stick a lot, generally headed in the right direction bar a couple of passes that didn’t click and one ambush that resulted in a turnover in his own territory. But without a doubt he was a central player in the Thunderbirds’ scheme of things, and moving the disc was a big part of his role. Source
- Ethan Bear: “I’d say I’m a two-way puck moving defenceman, I can shoot, I can skate, I position myself well.” Source
- Craig Button: There’s a lot of substance in his game. He doesn’t get himself into trouble, you earn everything you get when playing against him. Coming out of his own zone, he understands what the options are and these are things that will translate to the NHL.
Bear’s power-play numbers are off this year, but Mathew Barzal was missing in the first 15 games of the year and his even-strength numbers remain. His NHLE last (21) and this (18) season suggest he is ‘in the range’ with Darnell Nurse at the same age.
- Oilers senior director of player development Rick Carriere: “Ethan’s offensive game really evolved, but more than anything else, I think he rounded out his game away from the puck, too. He’s a lot better in the defensive zone, checking down low. He had good corner battles, he was tougher in front of the net. His game is all about the puck and transition and moving his feet, and he did a really good job with that throughout the year and was able to put up some offensive numbers.” Source
Bear is in a group of defensemen who have all made themselves known, but none have separated beyond that point. He is a talented passer, has a big shot from the point and is perhaps more advanced in coverage than most teenage defenders. His skating is good and his advancement over several areas since draft day have him here. He has the makings of a complete skill set, but these are early days.
As always, it is often a useful reminder to recall the story of Jeff Petry, Taylor Chorney and Cody Wild. Three college defenders who arrived in pro at about the same time, with one emerging as a bona fide top 4D (Petry), another as a fringe NHLer (Chorney) and still another as a career minor leaguer. We would do well to view the current collective (Benning, Paigin, Bear) in the same light.
THE 2015 DRAFT
- Connor McDavid, No. 1 overall. Making our dreams come true. Graduated.
- D Caleb Jones, No. 117 overall. Impressive young player has improved greatly since the draft. Good wheels, impressive offense. Inside the Top 20.
- D Ethan Bear, No. 124 overall. He is progressing in all areas and has a nice range of skills. Bear’s progress since draft day has been impressive. No. 6 prospect, Winter 2016.
- D John Marino, No. 154 overall. Mobile offensive defender posting some crooked numbers early in NCAA career. A candidate for the Winter Top 20.
- G Miroslav Svoboda, No. 208 overall. Stopping everything in a faraway Czech league. What does that mean? A candidate for the Winter Top 20.
- D Ziyat Paigin, No. 209 overall. A transfer to Sochi unlocked this player in 2015-16, and an untimely injury this season cannot dampen enthusiasm. No. 5 prospect, Winter 2016.
ROLLING TOP 20
- It is important to keep in mind Edmonton is strong at center and has graduated several lefty defensemen (Klefbom, Nurse, Davidson) in recent seasons.
- Needs include RW, RHD and goaltending.