Nashville Predators: Should Ekholm Replace Ellis On Top Pair?

(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

Ryan Ellis’ is confirmed to be out until January, leaving a significant question. Who will fill in the Nashville Predators top four?

The Nashville Predators were dealt a massive blow this week. Top defenseman Ryan Ellis will be missing for quite some time. He’s a wonderful player who brings an offensive instinct not found in most defensemen. Ellis is good for at least 30 plus points while also being a strong proponent of the breakout. Losing Ellis hurts a lot but the acquisition of Alexei Emelin may be a decent stop-gap. And most people seem to be of a like mind of where they think Emelin will fit in next to Roman Josi. But I’m not so sure.

Mattias Ekholm is the perfect shutdown defender to compliment Josi

I really think that Mattias Ekholm‘s shot suppression skills would compliment Josi extremely well. This would allow head coach Peter Laviolette to play this line in more situations. Whereas the Subban-Ekhom line eats a lot of tough minutes. An Ekholm-Josi line would take some of the pressure off Subban. A more even top four would do wonders for the stamina of the defenders.

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Ekholm and Josi would be a great first pair on any team in the NHL. The Nashville Predators are lucky they have P.K. Subban to make up the difference on the second line.

Emelin and Subban have a history of playing together

I know it may not sound true, but long ago in the year 2015, Subban was a Montreal Canadien. Shocking, I know. But Subban and Emelin actually used to play first line minutes together. Emelin cannot play first line minutes anymore, but he can play second line minutes. If Subban and Emelin recieve 20 minutes or so a night, they should both thrive. Some other factors will help as well. Subban and Emelin started in the offensive zone less than 47% of the time and if the Josi-Ekholm line plays tougher minutes. The Subban-Emelin line will get better zone starts and better stats. Subban boasted a 54.1 Fenwick score while Emelin put together a respectable 49.9 Fenwick score on a terrible Canadiens defense.

Both players would help each other out in many ways. Emelin isn’t a great skater but he makes up for it with his physicality and judgement. He does a wonderful job of closing the gap on opponents and likes to stay at home. Meanwhile, Subban plays a risky style where he constantly is pushing the tempo and breakout. Subban will do better if this situation plays out. A defensively minded partner and some easier minutes will allow Subban to explode offensively.

What could we expect from these pairings?

Let’s remember that all of this is just a stop-gap until Ellis comes back. An Ekholm-Josi pairing would be elite and an Emelin-Subban would be great on the second pairing.

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Not many things would be different. Josi’s points would probably come down as he plays against tougher competition. While Subban’s points rise a bit as he plays against weaker competition.