Ryan Ellis capped off a great season last year by having offseason surgery to repair damage to his knee he suffered in the Stanley Cup Finals. The expected recovery time is about four to six months. Ellis’ doctors are leaning toward the latter which would put his return sometime around Christmas. Once he starts skating in approximately 3 weeks we should start to see just where he is and how long his recovery will take.
In the meantime the Predators must now replace him in the lineup. This will not be an easy task as he joined the leadership group with an A on his jersey last year while posting a career high 16 goals this past season. Head coach Peter Laviolette will have some options, so let’s take a look at his choices.
Alexei Emelin – When GM David Poile made the deal for Emelin, the speculation flew around about why. Many felt this was the precursor to a deal for Matt Duchene, but as we now know, it was because he already knew just how bad the injury to Ellis was. The options with Emelin are interesting. They could consider putting him with his old running buddy P.K. Subban, but I am not sure how much they want to break up Subban and Mattias Ekholm. Subban and Ekholm were a formidable shutdown duo during their Stanley Cup run last season. Most likely, he will start the year next to Roman Josi, the only drawback being that they are both lefthanded shots.
Anthony Bitetto – Bitetto is a player who showed signs of some major improvement at times last season. However, he is also a lefthanded shot and I am not sure they would want to throw him up next to Josi just yet. If he was in the top 6 next year, they would probably slot him with either Matt Irwin or Yannick Weber first.
Petter Granberg – Granberg is intriguing. I think a lot of people are probably going to overlook him. Great size at 6’-3” and 200 lbs and he is a righthanded shot. If he can show that his defensive game is ready for it, he could be a good fit beside Josi, allowing him to roam while staying home himself. The problem is last season Granberg’s development seemed to stall a bit, so he would really have to step up his game to make this happen.
Matt Irwin – Irwin struggled playing with Yannick Weber on the third pair in the playoffs last season. It was really odd, as these two made for a great bottom pair through the regular season. The one thing Irwin has going for him is, even though he is also a lefthanded shot, he and Josi played very well together last season when they were forced to change up the D-core due to injuries. Granted, they didn’t play together for extended periods of time, but the small sample we had was promising.
Yannick Weber – The righthanded shot defenseman could be the best choice to play alongside Josi to start the year. Not the biggest player, Weber makes up for it by being a smart, stay at home defenseman. At the start of the season, he looked a little lost in the system, but as the season went on he looked more and more comfortable and really became a reliable guy on the bottom pair. With the limited great choices, Weber could be a surprise good move along side of Josi
Alexandre Carrier – This is the player I personally would love to see alongside Josi. Yes, he is on the smaller side, but so is Ellis. Carrier is the one defenseman we have that is a righthanded shot and is the most like Ellis. Great vision, very good skater and stick handler and he sees the ice very well. Ideally, Carrier stepping up and showing he is ready would be what you would like to see.
Samuel Girard – Another lefthanded defenseman, Girard is another offensively gifted player on the back end. While his skill set fits, most likely he needs another year of seasoning before he would be ready for a top 4 role in the NHL.
All we can do is wait and see who grabs this opportunity to shine in Ellis’ absence. The best case scenario is that the Predators are in the hunt for the division in late December and getting Ellis back would be an early or late Christmas present.
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