Ethan Bear could formally put his fears behind him as he stepped onto the ice at NAIT on Monday for the first on-ice session of the Edmonton Oilers’ training camp.
Bear, 23, was without a contract until one week ago when he signed a two-year deal worth $4 million. It was cutting it a bit close for the right-shot defenceman, who admitted he’s been worrying about missing the start of camp.
“It was definitely in the back of mind almost every hour of the day,” he said. “I didn’t want to miss camp. I’m a player who loves to be in Edmonton early. I love training and hanging out with the guys prior to camp.
“I’m really happy I got it done so I didn’t miss a day of camp.”
Oilers head coach Dave Tippett has seen players arrive late for camp throughout his career as a player and as a coach. Sometimes it’s because of a contract issue while sometimes it’s an injury or personal matter. Regardless of the reason, Tippett said it often doesn’t go well.
“I think it was very important,” he said. “Especially young players that get thrust into a situation where they’re not in camp, they get behind in a hurry and it’s hard to catch up.
“I was very pleased that Ethan got the business of the game taken care of.”
Bear, who was drafted in the fifth round — 124th overall — in 2015, became a full-time NHLer last season. He had five goals and 21 points and played in all 71 regular season games.
“I want to do everything better than I did last year. I’ve been watching a lot of video,” said Bear. “Now that I’ve got a year under my belt, I know how the league works and how guys play. I know the intensity.
“I knew what to prepare for this year. I want to try to get better. I’m still a young player. I have a lot to prove still.”
Watch below: Some Global News videos about Ethan Bear.
Also on Monday, Jesse Puljujarvi skated with the Oilers for the first time since February 2018. He had hip surgery at that time, then went to play in Finland. His agent said he’d never play for the Oilers again, but Puljujarvi has come back and was on a line with Josh Archibald and Kyle Turris.
“He’s a monster of a man. He’s a big man. I loved that he’s smiling. It looks like he loves to play, and high skill for a big man,” said Tippett. “Skating with the guys for the last three of the four days, there were a lot of comments how good Jesse looks on the ice, how happy he is.
“He’s engaging with his teammates. He was a good player out there today.”
James Neal, Devin Shore, Dominik Kahun, and Gaetan Haas didn’t skate on Monday as they were designated “unfit to play.” NHL teams aren’t expected to provide any more information about player injuries or illnesses.