Ethan Bear was the biggest revelation for the Edmonton Oilers this past season. An afterthought after an injury-filled 2018-19 season, Bear made the Oilers out of training camp and never looked back.
The 124th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft was slated to start the season in Bakersfield, but took advantage of opportunity in training camp. When Adam Larsson went down with an injury on opening night, it was Bear who stepped up and filled his role, not free agent addition Joel Persson.
In the end, Bear emerged as a top-four defenseman for the Oilers who can move the puck and transition from the defensive zone. It was a better season than anyone expected.
Bear, even after 71 NHL games and 21 points (5-16-21), is not content with his progress.
“I still have that same mindset, to prove myself everyday,” Bear said via video conference on Wednesday. “When I was back home, I was very fortunate to have ice and a good training facility, so I just got a program from Edmonton and just grinded every day to stay in shape and work on whatever I could.”
Bear was a force for the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL in 2017-18. He earned his first NHL call-up, where he played in 18 games and scored his first NHL goal. He never got right a season ago, however, and seemingly fell behind fellow prospect Caleb Jones.
That forced Bear to not just change his physical approach, but his mental approach for the 2019-20 season.
“The biggest thing was my focus,” Bear said. “Each day coming to the rink, kind of having a plan of what I wanted to do. Show up early, get in the gym, do my proper warmup, and then on the ice, maybe if its video with Jimmy (Playfair) or anything, just go see him and work on little details that I can improve on and try to stay consistent. That was pretty much the biggest thing.”
Bear took off in 2019-20, and seemingly has emerged as a long-term option for the Oilers on defense. Fans can dream of a lengthy stay for Bear. The young defenseman, however, is just making sure he doesn’t get comfortable.
“Just didn’t want to get comfortable at any time, knew each day that you gotta try to get better,” Bear added. “Every day you have to prove yourself in this league.”