As is now well known across the hockey world, the QMJHL’s reputation to produce exceptional goaltenders has become a league’s trademark. This season, a goalie from the Shawinigan Cataractes has kept a lot of interest of NHL scouts. Born on January 1st 1986, his name is Julien Ellis.
Though he just turned 18 years old, Ellis is already the key player for his junior team. Quebec’s junior hockey observers are unanimous that the team’s fifth best record in the regular season is in mainly due to the outstanding performance of Ellis.
With two games remaining in the regular season, Ellis, who has played in 57 games, leads the league for minutes played. His average of 2.88 goals per game and .902 save percentage, as well as the number of games won, rank him among the QMJHL goalie leaders.
A native of Sorel, Quebec, Ellis has already an interesting resume to offer NHL scouts for the upcoming June Entry Draft.
Like many hockey stars, he played at the world class Quebec Pee-Wee Tournament. A few years ago, he played all six games for the Bantam AA Lajemmerais Grands-Ducs and helped them to win the Chrysler Cup, the emblem of Quebec province championship.
In 2001-02, he contributed to help midget AAA College Antoine-Girouard to win the season regular championship. In doing so, he earned the Ken Dryden Trophy for the best goalie of the league. He also shared his name on the Mario Gosselin Trophy, given to the goalie who keeps the league’s best GAA.
In January 2003, Ellis was a member of the U-17 Quebec’s team at the Canadian Games. Last summer, he was the Canadian U-18 starting goalie at the Junior World Cup in Czech and Slovakia. Once again, he performed very well under pressure. In the first game against Finland, he helped his team to win while he did not allow the opponent to score at all in the sudden death penalty shots. In the third game, despite a 2-1 loss against the strong Czech team, Ellis was named the best Canadian player of the game.
A couple of months ago, the 2002 Shawinigan’s first pick was named QMJHL Defensive Player of the Week. At the same moment, he also earned the CHL Player of the Week.
Last January, Ellis was selected to play at the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospect Game in London, Ontario. However, he was tired as he was just coming back from a long trip marked by three games played in three days. He did not perform as expected, allowing 4 goals on 14 shots during the first period.
Shawinigan Cataractes coach Denis Francoeur explained to Hockey’s Future in a telephone interview that the organization decided as early as December 2002 that Ellis would be their top goalie in the following season. They put him in the roster in January 2003 to help him become familiar with the life of a QMJHL player. “We wanted to create a comfort zone for him and prepare him adequately for the 2003-04 season,” said Francoeur.
That move paid off as the statistics earlier show. The coach is very proud of what Ellis has done so far this year. “He had no slump and performed steadily, avoiding ups and downs,” commented Francoeur who added that consistency is one of Ellis’ strengths.
“Another main quality of Julien is his competitive character, he is a remarkable competitor and has a huge will to stop every puck.” Francoeur who also noted that Ellis is a very serious man off the ice.
Francoeur has worked in QMJHL for many years. Along the way, he has seen a lot of great goalkeepers. “Julien is in line with the best goalies who have played in QMJHL. He is very strong mentally, has a very good technique [butterfly style] and in the whole has a huge potential,” concluded Shawinigan’s coach.
A great man on and off the ice
In a telephone chat with Hockey’s Future, the sixth ranked North American goalkeeper of the 2004 mid-season Central Scouting Bureau rankings (fifth overall amongst goaltenders by International Scouting Services) recalled that some important men who contributed to make him a better hockey player.
Spontaneously, he named his older brother Philippe who initiated him to the game of hockey when he was about 8 years old. Julien Ellis also had kind words for his former goalie coach while he played in the Sorel minor hockey organization. “He believed in my ability,” said Ellis.
Ellis has also the greatest recognition for the world class goalkeeper coach François Allaire. “He is in business with my agent Gilles Lupien and I used to participate to his summer camps since I played bantam level,” stated Ellis. “I learned a lot from him.”
When he is asked to talk about himself, the young prospect underlines that he likes to play under pressure and feels great as adrenaline is rising in key moments. “I’m quite persistent, but I have also to admit that sometimes it happens that I lose my composure,” said Ellis who specified it does just happen during practices and that he has more control on that now.
Definitively, Ellis has got character. “Sometimes, I stand up in the players’ room to try to create some momentum,” he stated. Off the ice, Ellis describes himself as a generous and social person who likes to laugh.
Ellis has already completed his secondary school and entered college, which is not that common for a QMJHL 17-year-old player. It does illustrate his sense of responsibility and his work ethic.
The young prospect stated said that his performance on the ice rose after the Christmas break because he decided to not pay attention to the numerous NHL scouts who stood in the arena. He thinks he could be picked as soon as at the end of the first round if things go well. As the post season games will begin next week, Ellis is very aware that his performance during that short period could have a great influence on where he could be drafted next June.
Over the years, Shawinigan Cataractes (formerly Bruins) have produced many good goalies across decades. Recall Phil Myre, Mario Gosselin and Patrick Lalime just to name a few. If Julien Ellis keeps progressing, stays away from injuries and has some luck, he could find his place among those respected names.