The Hurricanes made a swap to help their blue line last week, sending the rights to RFA forward Warren Foegele to the Edmonton Oilers for promising young defenseman Ethan Bear.
In order to get more information about what the Hurricanes are getting in Bear, we caught up with managing editor Jeff Chapman of Copper and Blue, our sister site covering the Oilers.
Jeff’s answers are below, and be sure to check out Ryan’s answers to Copper and Blue’s five questions about Warren Foegele here.
1. What would you say to someone who has never watched Ethan Bear play? What kind of player is he?
Bear is an up-and-coming right shot defenseman. He is young and doesn’t yet have two full seasons worth of play under his belt yet, so there’s still some of a learning curve involved in his development. Bear plays a good 5 on 5 game, and he’s already had plenty of time on the penalty kill, where he is proficient at blocking shots. He was at least the second best defenseman on the Oilers in 2021, he’s already an easy top four option for most any club.
2. What would you chalk up Bear’s struggles the last two seasons to? Growing pains?
Youth. There’s a saying among Oiler fans that goes along the line of you not knowing what you have in a defenseman with less than 200 NHL games. Bear is at 132, and I don’t think you’ll find anyone who watches him that will tell you he’s not a top four option today. Bear had a period where he struggled after sustaining a concussion this past season and he wasn’t very good for about ten games. Bear is a consistent player in his own end, and he’s got the chops to get the puck up the ice, he had a pretty bad giveaway in the playoffs against Winnipeg that resulted in a goal against. I think that this was a contributing factor to him getting traded.
3. Both of the Hurricanes’ primary power-play quarterbacks from last season in Dougie Hamilton and Jake Bean are gone. Is that a role Bear could fill?
Not yet, at least, he wasn’t that in Edmonton. Bear spent just 22 minutes on the power play in 41 games this past year, and at just age 23 there’s plenty of time to find out whether or not he’s the player in a year or two. If I’m Carolina, Brett Pesce is probably the player I’m trying to run the show with in 2021-22, and Ethan Bear might get some favorable time on the second unit to see if he’s ready to run with it.
4. What do you think Bear’s ceiling is?
I’m bullish on Ethan Bear. He’s a top four guy right now, and I would have no problem if he was my number one right defenseman today. I think he could be that for Carolina soon, if not now. He’s on a value contract right now and he had a 54% CF against elite competition this past season. The ice is tilted towards the opponent when he’s on the ice, which is one of a few things I’m really looking for when judging a contract on a defenseman. There’s no situation where he looks out of place, and smart money says he’s only going to get better in the next two years.
5. Bear is regarded as a high-character guy, and obviously got a lot of attention last year for his bravery in taking a stand against racism. What kind of player are the Hurricanes getting off the ice?
Ethan Bear took a despicable situation when a select group of fans took it upon themselves to hurl a tirade of racist epithets at him after a game in the Winnipeg series. He turned a despicable act from others into a teachable moment. A proud member of the Ochapawace First Nation, Bear teamed up with the Oilers, the NHL and Hockey Canada to speak out against racial prejudice and injustice, calling for a community of acceptance, inclusion and respect.
I think he’ll do well in Carolina. He’s a tremendous athlete and he’s a high quality guy.