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#13 - Ethan Bear

The former WHL champ is poised to make the jump to pro hockey this year.

Seattle Thunderbirds v Kelowna Rockets Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

We’re now halfway through our top-25 under 25, with our #13 selection, former Seattle Thunderbirds defenceman, Ethan Bear.

Here’s how the C&B staff ranked the 2015 fifth round pick:

As you can see, my ranking of 10 was the highest of all the C&B writers. I guess you could say I’m BULLISH on BEAR.

The reason for that is pretty simple. His WHL numbers are amazing. Since being drafted, his WHL stats including playoffs are as follows:

  • 171 Games Played
  • 61 Goals
  • 122 Assists
  • 183 Points
  • +70 rating*

*I’m sorry for using plus/minus, but there isn’t much data available to assess two-way play in the WHL. Take it with a grain of salt. For the sake of context, Bear had the best +/- of his team in 2015-16 including playoffs (+25), and the second best including playoffs (+45) on last year’s WHL championship squad.

What I’m more focused on here is the point production. That’s a rate of 29 goals and 88 points per 82 games played over his age 18 and 19 seasons. For the sake of comparison, Darnell Nurse, who of course was a #7 overall pick, with a high offensive upside, averaged 19 goals and 66 points per 82 games over his age 18 and 19 seasons in the CHL.

Bear’s ability to put up points is certainly special, but the 2017 Bill Hunter Trophy winner (best WHL defenceman) will have to prove that he’s up to the challenge of defending bigger and faster players at the pro level.

That test will very likely have to be taken in Bakersfield next season. Bear, along with other high-profile newcomers like Caleb Jones, will be expected to make up for most of the offence from the back end lost in Bakersfield, due to the offseason departure of top puck-mover Jordan Oesterle to Chicago via free agency.

Bakersfield will not only provide a setting for Bear to prove that he can skate and defend at the pro level, but also that his offense can translate to the pro level. As the defenceman with the highest offensive pedigree in the Oilers’ farm system, Bear will likely get the chance to run the power play for the Condors in 2017-18.

If all goes well, Bakersfield should be seeing a rich man’s version of former fan-favourite Brad Hunt in 2017-18. Bear should be able to replicate Hunt’s passing skills and big shot from the point, with superior skating and size that should one day translate better to the NHL level.

Bear’s going to be a big deal in Bakersfield next season, and hopefully a key contributor to the big club after that.