When you think of the Nashville Predators a few names come to mind. Names like P.K. Subban, Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi and Pekka Rinne. However, if you are in Nashville there is one other name that has jumped to the forefront when you think of the Predators…Ryan Ellis. The diminutive defenseman is fast becoming one of the most important players for this team.
Drafted 11th overall in 2009, Ellis was seen by the Predators as a future 2nd pairing defensemen with the ability to quarterback a power play unit. Ellis quickly became that player. The 2013/14 season was the 1st full season for Ellis playing 80 games that year. While scoring only 6 goals and finishing with 27 pts, it was his defensive game that jumped out. While posting a +9 he set career highs, at the time, in hits(57) and blocks(97). In the 2014/15 season, even though he was coming on strong, injuries derailed him a bit as he missed 24 games that season.
The next season was when we started to see Ryan becoming more than just a 2nd pair defensemen. This was a career year for him, as he set career highs in every major category. This was the 3rd straight season his time on the ice average went up as he played 20:54 per game. The play of he and Mattias Ekholm allowed the Preds to give their top pair of Roman Josi and Shea Weber a lot of rest heading into the playoffs. Ryan was playing in all situations, including power play and penalty kill time. This continued in the playoffs and his ice times rose to 24:12 TOI in the 14 playoff games that year.
Here in the 2016/17 season, Ellis’ role has increased to playing on the top pair alongside Roman Josi. When the Predators traded away their captain Shea Weber in the offseason for P.K. Subban, everyone assumed Subban would be playing with Josi. However, Ellis was rewarded with the role. Ryan has risen to the challenge and has shown he belongs there while putting together another career year. Posting career highs in goals(15), assists(22), points(37), +/- +17, hits(64) and blocks(136).
It can be said that Ryan Ellis has actually replaced Shea Weber, not P.K. Subban. Ellis is averaging .53 pts per game this year, Weber is at .54. Once again his time on the ice has gone up, playing an average of 23:59 per game. Not only is he still a key cog on the power play, but he is averaging 1:10 more on the penalty kill from last season to this. Also, he has a rocket of a slap shot, it may not be Weber’s 105 mph, but it is not as far behind as you might think.
The biggest change in the game Ryan is playing these last 2 seasons, compared to early on in his career, is the calmness with which he plays the game. His high hockey IQ is what puts him in the right spot at the right time and now the growth in his game is making it look easy. From blocking shots and passes to his offensive play, Ellis is more than just playing as a top pair defensemen, he has become one.
Here are a few examples of the plays he is making with regularity for this team:
— Mark Harris (@MCHisTweeting) December 28, 2016
The encouraging thing for the Predators is he is not becoming this player too late in his career. Ellis is only 26 years old, he is approaching his prime and is not just playing like he belongs, but like he knows he belongs.
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