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Ethan Bear focused on future with Oilers after rough Memorial Cup

Defenseman had no points in three losses with Seattle at tournament

by Dave Hogg / Correspondent

WINDSOR, Ontario -- Defenseman Ethan Bear won't take many fond memories away from the 2017 Memorial Cup.

Bear helped Seattle win its first Western Hockey League championship and play in the Memorial Cup for first time, but he was held off the scoresheet in a 7-0 loss to Saint John at WFCU Centre on Tuesday.

Seattle lost all three of its games at the tournament by a combined score of 18-3. It's the worst goal differential since the Memorial Cup expanded to four teams in 1983.

Bear, a fifth-round pick (No. 124) by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2015 NHL Draft, had no points, a minus-4 rating and three shots on goal in the three games.

"This is a tough way to go out, but I'm proud of what we did this year," Bear said. "That's what I want to remember."

Despite the Memorial Cup disappointment, the future looks bright for Bear.

He attended his first NHL training camp last season. Daily drills against Oilers forwards Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins forced him to raise his level of play, as did working with defensemen Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera and Darnell Nurse.

"It was an incredible experience," Bear said. "Everyone knows how good Edmonton is now, after what they did in the [2017 Stanley Cup] Playoffs, but even when I first got there they had so many great young players. It really showed me how much better I was going to have to become to be able to play at that level."

Bear was returned to Seattle and showed improvement in his game. He was fifth among WHL defensemen during the 2015-16 season with 19 goals and 65 points in 69 games, and he was plus-14 after going plus-1 the previous season. Seattle reached the WHL finals but lost to Brandon in five games.

"After losing to Brandon we knew we could win it all this year," Bear said. "We just had to keep pushing."

The Oilers saw enough improvement that they signed him to a three-year entry-level contract on July 2. And after another confidence-building turn at training camp, he returned to Seattle and dominated.

Bear was second among WHL defensemen with 28 goals and third with 70 points; he was named the league's best defensemen. He was fourth among all players in the WHL playoffs with 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) in 17 games.

"Ethan is now a really good two-way defenseman," Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said. "He has outstanding reads and he can move the puck on both ends of the ice. He's an important reason that we made it to the Memorial Cup."

While Bear's junior career didn't end the way he wanted, he's already looking forward to next season and being back with the Oilers. He'll turn 20 on June 26 and can play in the American Hockey League if he doesn't stick in the NHL.

"It has been a really exciting couple of years, but I know I still have a lot of work in front of me," he said. "I loved watching Edmonton play this season and I want to be a part of that. That's my goal."

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