While we wait for news on what’s happening with the lockout – which according to at least one inside source will either be over soon or will not be over soon – I’ll be taking a look each day at someone from the Nashville Predators organization who’s actually playing meaningful hockey. Yesterday I looked at some of the Predators junior hockey prospects around Canada and the U.S. Today I’ll start looking at players putting in time this season with the Milwaukee Admirals, the Predators’ AHL affiliate. Who better to start with than Ryan Ellis, who scores goals on the moon?
A latter-day junior hockey legend with 314 points (73G-241A) in 226 games during his time with the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires, the 5’10” Ellis also won two silver medals and one gold with Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships. He was selected in the 1st round by the Predators in the 2009 NHL Draft.
The 21-year-old Ellis made his pro debut last year with the Admirals. By late December the Preds found themselves without Shea Weber for a few games and in need of a sixth defenseman, so Ellis got the call. Nashville lost 4-1 to Detroit during his debut on December 27, but Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was impressed with how Ellis played. “(He’s) as good as there is in hockey on the power play,” Babcock said. “He doesn’t have the bomb that (Shea) Weber has, but he has all those other things — he’s very deceptive, he really sees, he has ice water in his veins.”
Though he’s considered undersized by NHL standards, the former CHL Player of the Year showed Philadelphia Flyer Wayne Simmonds that he knows how to lay a hip-check on with the best of them:
Ryan Ellis spent most of the rest of the season in Nashville, though he did spend a little more time in Milwaukee after the team acquired veteran d-man (and redwood impersonator) Hal Gill near the trade deadline. He was with the team at the end of the season and finished with 12 points (3G-9A) in 32 games. Ellis stayed in Nashville through the playoffs, making his Stanley Cup Playoff debut in Game 3 of the first round matchup with Anaheim and playing twice more after that.
Assuming the NHL plays this season there’s talk of pairing Ellis with Gill. The vet played on a line with Roman Josi late last season and was a solid influence on the young Swiss blueliner. One can only imagine that Gill would be a similarly great influence on Ellis’ development at the NHL level, which could help the team begin to make up for the loss of Ryan Suter during the offseason. And with Gill’s 300-foot wingspan to rely on, Ellis could be freed up to join the rush and spice up the Nashville offense a bit.
For now Ellis is manning the blue line in Milwaukee, where the NHL club is hoping that the young defenseman will be able to work on his defensive skills. He missed the Admirals’ first 14 games due to a broken wrist suffered during the offseason, but he made his season debut November 23. Since then he’s played in five games, picking up 2 points (0G-2A) and going +2.
Whenever the Nashville Predators return, their fans will be keeping a close eye on Ryan Ellis.