When Ryan Ellis was drafted in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Nashville Predators fans were in outrage. The team was coming off their first season not in the playoffs since 2003. The Preds also had spent a 2nd straight season without bonafide offensive talent in the wings – a growing concern at the time.
The expectation was that General Manager David Poile would address his team's offensive woes and future offensive woes with a top notch big, stud forward. What happened? The team drafted a small, mobile defenceman in Ellis. The Preds were already stacked on defense with Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Dan Hamhuis entering their prime years. Kevin Klein had his first full season and other players like Cody Franson, Alexander Sulzer and Teemu Laakso were looking for a shot on the roster.
So to put everything into context, it made little sense to draft a defenseman, much less a small defenceman whose size could be a major issue.
But the upside to Ellis was big. When they announced Ellis as the pick, I was excited. I had seen and heard much about him, whether it was his play with the Windsor Spitfires or his time with Team Canada at the World Juniors. He was fast, elusive and skilled. His offensive potential on the back-end was endless.
Ellis got some time to show his stuff during the 2011-12 season. He impressed many and that led to him starting the shortened 2012-13 season on the roster. The fears of Ellis getting stung on the defensive end due to his size came full swing.
This season will be a big year for Ellis going forward. It's around this time that the team wants to see more out of him. So far this season, he has mostly been paired with Victor Bartley or Mattias Ekholm – sensible D partners. He's getting powerplay time to show his offensive abilities. He's got a great shot for a little guy and he's used it in the past. Overall, I think he's been very average. He really did not look good last year in his own end and that's something that will stand out to the Preds coaching staff – it did. However, Ellis has had his moments offensively and he'll have to improve his defensively.
This season, Ellis has registered 1 goal and 4 assists for 5 points in 21 games. He is a plus-2.
My grade for Ellis so far is 3.5/5. A 4/5 for his offensive abilities, production and potential. A 3/5 for his defensive play.
(Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon SMI)