Is Ellis Ready for the Big Time?

In the 2009 entry draft, the Nashville Predators selected Ryan Ellis eleventh overall to become the fifth defenseman drafted by the Preds in the first round.At the time, many scouts were saying that if he had been two inches taller, Ellis would have been a top five pick that year, as his skill was unquestionable. The real question was, however, was whether he could transition his game to the NHL-level .

Ellis has been one of the most notable Predators draft picks due in large part to his performances on the world stage at the WJC, winning gold once in 2009 and two silvers in 2010 and 2011. In 2009, he was Canada's 8th defenseman, because of his tremendous skills on the power play, and rewarded his team with a keep in at the point of the semi-finals against Russia, a play that lead to the tying goal in the last few seconds of regulation, and eventually, the win. In 2010, he played for Canada again but failed to capture gold playing regular ice time. Finally, this past year, he was named team captain, and scored a goal in the first game against Russia to become the all time point leader for defensemen. By the end of the tournament, he had tied Jordan Eberle for second most points by a player at the WJC, only behind Eric Lindros.

Not only has Ellis accomplished a lot on the international level, but at the Major Junior level as well. He is a two time Memorial Cup winner in 2009 and 2010, and while he couldn't pull off the three-peat in 2011, his list of accomplishments kept growing. He has recorded over 300 OHL career points, even becoming the first defenseman in 17 years to register over 100 points in a single regular season.

Ellis has done everything possible at the junior level, and is now ready for pro hockey. Tthe only question is whether he is ready for the NHL or not. There are spots opening up on the Preds blueline this year, with  he departures of Cody Franson and Shane O’Brien, not to mention the injury to Francis Bouillon, with no timetable for his return. Ellis is therefore likely to be given a chance by general manager David Poile, and even though the road to Nashville runs through Milwaukee, Ellis could be just what the Predators need this season.

It’s no secret that the Predators lack scoring and need to improve their power play, and because of Ellis' unique ability to be a pure offensive defenseman, he could help the Predators in a way other prospects can't.  While he won't be able to single-handedly remedy the scoring, a power play with Ellis and Blum on the point might really give Preds fans hope. Both are more offensively inclined and a little more creative than Weber or Suter, and should offer a different look.

That said, Preds fans should keep their expectations in check. While Ellis is a good hockey player, this upcoming season is going to be his first pro season, at the ripe age of 20. Unless he completely blows Preds management away at training camp, look for him to start in the AHL, with a mid-season call-up.