Many of the diehard Nashville Predators fans know how valuable Ryan Ellis is to the team, but many times he gets overlooked in the big picture.
It was illustrated in a pretty clear way this season how important Ryan Ellis is to the Nashville Predators and what all he brings to the table.
Ellis missed 20 games this season after taking a blow to the head from Dallas’ Corey Perry in the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. This was right around the time that the Predators really started to go near the edge of the cliff.
We’re looking for anything to talk about with the NHL season on pause, along with virtually the rest of the sports world. With that said, the NHL on NBC released their top-five most underrated players in the NHL, courtesy of Adam Gretz:
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) March 24, 2020
Ellis comes in at NBC’s No.4 spot as most-underrated, trailing Kyle Connor (Winnipeg), William Nylander (Toronto) and Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida).
Is he really underrated?
Now diehard hockey purists will probably come out and criticize this list by saying that Ellis isn’t underrated and they’re full aware of how good he is. That may be true, but he’s certainly not a household name.
Ellis kind of lives in Roman Josi’s shadow to a degree. They’re both very talented offensive-minder defenseman that are very popular among the fans. I’d even be willing to have a good argument that Ellis is more popular than Josi is among Nashville fans.
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When it comes to the play on the ice, Ellis does get overlooked a lot. Despite missing 20 games, he’s still second on the team in assists with 30.
Ellis’ 30 assists only trails Josi’s 49, but it doesn’t take a deep dive to understand that Ellis would be much closer to Josi in that department if not for the injury.
The team did everything they could to remain in the playoff hunt, but the absence of Ellis was painfully noticeable. The defense was horrendous on many night, and that spilled over to lopsided final scores and a plummeting penalty kill.
For all that Ellis brings to the Predators, it’s totally fair to put him on this power ranking list of ten players.
Ellis fits into that on a league-wide basis, but here in Nashville fans know what they have. A team leader, a guy who brings it every night and one who impacts all parts of the game in a positive fashion.
Entering his peak
It’s also fair to say that Ellis is still in the prime of his career. He just turned 29 and was on pace to surpass last season’s point total of 41 despite playing in a full 82 games. A huge spike in production, most notably in his assist totals, from last season to this season.
We could conceivably be in store for Ellis’ best season of his NHL career going into 2020-21. It was cut drastically short in the Winter Classic, and I’m still not over that travesty.
But Gretz is right on the money to suggest that Ellis is overlooked in a long pipeline of great Nashville defensemen. He gets lost in the shuffle as not being a top-tier NHL defenseman.
I do want to see Ellis’ power play production return to form. That patented one-timer slapshot he possesses is something that wasn’t seen enough this past season. The Nashville power play was mediocre at best, and Ellis is a major weapon that can fix that going forward.
It’s not a stretch to think that in another season or two, barring another lengthy injury, that Ellis will no longer be considered underrated as he’ll continue to build into the prime of his career.
Focusing on other candidates as underrated players on the Predators, I’d throw Craig Smith and Nick Bonino into this mix. Maybe not top-ten in the entire league, but as honorable mentions.
Outside of Nashville, I’m not sure it’s understood how vital those Smith and Bonino were to keeping the Predators from completely sinking this past season.
Other notable underrated players that came in behind Ellis was Vancouver’s J.T. Miller at No.5 and Dallas’ John Klingberg at No.7. The full list you can see right here.