Nashville Predators prospect Ryan Ellis has embarked on his professional career after turning in one of the more decorated junior careers in recent memory.
Ellis spent four seasons with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, a span in which the Spitfires won back-to-back OHL and Memorial Cup championships. Ellis was an integral part of the Spitfires success, as he generated a great deal of offense from the blueline during his 4-year tenure. He finished his junior career with the third-highest point total for a defenseman in the league's history, not to mention a stack of hardware that included being named CHL Player of the Year and Defenseman of the Year, as well as earning the OHL's Most Outstanding Player award and twice being named the OHL's top defenseman.
Ellis also starred in international play for Canada, playing in three consecutive World Junior Championships for that country. He earned one gold and two silver medals at those tournaments, and was named captain of the 2011 squad.
Photo: Selected in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft, Magnus Hellberg looks to be the next in a long line of talented goaltenders to come out of the Predators organization. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)
The Nashville Predators have historically been able to squeeze everything out of every penny they spend. Without the money to bring in a star free agent or the luxury of having a top five draft pick, the organization has prided itself on winning with top-notch, homegrown goaltending and defense.
Photo: Ryan Ellis will have to prove this season he is physically able to handle the rigors of North American professional hockey. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)
The Milwaukee Admirals are clearly the engine that continues to develop solid NHLers for the Nashville Predators. The Admirals were still able to advance to the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs despite starting with only two of their eleven top scorers from the previous season returning to the team for the 2010-11 season. They have an incredible streak starting on January 15, 2011 to present with zero regulation losses on the road. Milwaukee finished in first place of the tough West division of the Western conference while getting their rookies to step up the level of their play, playing solid team defense and receiving excellent goaltending down the stretch.
The Predators draft had an overarching boom or bust feel to it. They took a whole bunch of extremely talented players who are far away from putting it together, though they balanced it out with a few more solid players. Since they didn't have a first round pick, the strategy was one of the best ways to get impact talent into the system.
Nashville also took several players out of Europe, planning to let them season for a few years before bringing them to North America. The strategy in this draft was clear, Nashville wanted impact players, and is willing to wait on them if they're a ways away from the NHL. Right now, this is a difficult draft to evaluate, but in a few years we could look back and see one of the best drafts in Nashville's history, or one of the worst.
Photo: Taken in the first round of the 2010 draft, Austin Watson is one of several Predator prospects who could complement their top six. The Predators do not own a pick in the first round of the 2011 draft, having given it up in a trade for center Mike Fisher. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)
Top 10 prospects
1. Jonathon Blum, D
2. Taylor Beck, LW
3. Ryan Ellis, D
4. Austin Watson, RW
5. Roman Josi, D
6. Charles-Olivier Roussel, D
7. Blake Geoffrion, LW
8. Zach Budish, RW
9. Michael Latta, C
10. Anders Lindback, G