NHL draft tracker: Ethan Bear, Seattle Thunderbirds

Seattle's Ethan Bear is regarded as a future late-round pick for the upcoming NHL draft. (Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds)
Seattle's Ethan Bear is regarded as a future late-round pick for the upcoming NHL draft. (Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds)

With Anaheim Ducks first-rounder Shea Theodore poised to take off to the pros next year, Ethan Bear has relished the opportunity to show the Seattle Thunderbirds that he should be the club’s next offensive quarterback on the back end. His superb hockey sense and quality shot has led to him blossoming into a steady offensive contributor in his sophomore season.

“I think my confidence is the biggest difference this year (compared to his rookie season),” says Bear, who has scored nine goals and 30 points in 49 games. “I’m more confident this year and am making smarter decisions with the puck. It is also from the hard work I put in last off-season. I worked hard at getting stronger and faster in the summer.”

Bear’s strong commitment to the game is a major reason why he has thrived in the WHL. A case in point: He moved two provinces over from Sask. to B.C. when he was just 14-years-old to play in the esteemed Pursuit of Excellent Bantam Program in Kelowna. This shows how focused he, along with his family, was at such a young age to better his development.

“I didn’t find the move that hard because I had a lot of support from my family,” says the 17-year-old Bear, who played his first-year midget season with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Yorkton Harvest. “I’d see my family at all the tournaments, so that made it easier. I thought to play there was a good opportunity and I didn’t want to pass it up. I improved my skating a lot there and that helped me a lot to get to where I am.”

The 5-foot-11, 204-pound Bear’s immediate family only scratches the surface on how much support he has back home. His hometown, the Ochapowace Cree Nation, has made it clear that he is the pride of the community by showing him great support throughout his young hockey career.

“I get phone calls sometimes from people just telling me that they are cheering for me,” he says. “It’s nice to get that support and to have people rooting for you. It makes it easier on me when I’m far away from home to know that I have that kind of support.”

Throughout his process of gaining recognition as a talented blueliner, Bear has noticed an opportunity to become a role model for kids in the aboriginal community. He knows firsthand what players like Carey Price and Jordin Tootoo mean to young aboriginals inspiring to play in the NHL one day.

“I’ve never really thought about it (being a role model) much, I just try to be myself, but I’ve noticed how being a role model comes with being a hockey player,” says Bear, whom NHL CSS ranked as the 133rd best North American skater in its midterm ranking. “Players like Carey Price and Jordin Tootoo have made an impact and it would be cool to be looked up to like they are. But I’m just going to work hard and play hard and focus on being a good teammate.”

1. What part of your game do you feel that you have evolved the most since joining the Thunderbirds last year?

“I think how I play with the puck and in the offense as a whole has gotten a lot better. I’ve noticed my shot is harder and more accurate and I make a better first pass now than I did before. I also think I manage the puck better and make smarter decisions with it.”

2. Do you have a favourite NHL player that you try to model your game after?

“I like (Montreal Canadiens’) P.K. Subban and (New York Rangers’) Ryan McDonagh. I like how they play like how they can move the puck and create scoring chances. I try to play a similar style to that as a defenceman who can create offensive chances.”

3. Do you have a favourite NHL team?

“I don’t really have one, but if I had to pick one it would be the Montreal Canadiens. I went there when I was younger and liked the city and Subban is one of my favourite players.”

4. Do you have a favourite road arena that you like to play in?

“In Portland at the Rose Garden. It’s a nice a rink and they have a good crowd.”

5. If you weren’t fully committed to hockey, what other sport do you think you would be pursuing?

“Probably baseball. I used to play slow pitch when I was younger and enjoyed it.”

Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen

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