After playing much of the previous three seasons in a supporting role, Ellis was finally promoted to top-line duty last year, skating with Roman Josi on the Preds’ top defensive pairing. As a result, Ellis saw his ice time climb nearly three full minutes to 23:57 per game and recorded a career-high 38 points (including 11 on the power play) despite missing 11 games to various injuries. While the NHL may never see him exhibit the scoring prowess he showed back in junior hockey (300-plus points over four seasons at OHL Windsor), he’s finally showing he can be a dependable, top-four defenseman who can play a reliable two-way game and still chip in respectable offensive totals. While some regression in shooting percentage may bring his goal total down from last year's 16 unless he starts unleashing more shots, the 26-year-old still has some upside left, so it’s not unreasonable to expect him to continue improving -- meaning his first 40-point campaign is a legitimate possibility. Consider him a solid fantasy blue-line option in most standard leagues and a good DFS candidate in daily formats.
Ellis enjoyed his finest NHL campaign in 2015-16, setting new personal marks in goals (10), assists (22), power-play points (seven) and average ice time (20:54) while mostly skating alongside Mattias Ekholm on the Preds’ second defensive pairing. In fact, Ellis-Ekholm duo was so good, the Preds ended up trading away fellow blueliner Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen in January. The No. 11 overall pick in the 2009 draft is expected to reprise his top-four defensive role in Nashville this season, and he may be poised to take yet another step forward – especially if the Preds end up splitting Roman Josi and the recently acquired P.K. Subban, either of whom would make an incredible defensive partner for Ellis.
After almost hitting 30 points in his first full NHL season in 2013-14, Ellis made some strides in his development this past season, banking a career-high nine goals. Despite missing 24 games with a lower-body injury, the puck-moving blueliner still netted 27 points to match the previous season's total, while firing off an impressive 118 shots on goal, or about two per game. The 5-foot-10 defenseman has tremendous offensive instincts and a cannon for a shot, making him a fantasy defenseman on the rise. He’ll be manning the point alongside Seth Jones on the team’s second power-play unit in 2015-16, so if he can stay healthy, the former 101-point junior scorer could be in for his best offensive season to date.
After being a major disappointment for much of the previous two seasons (just 17 points in 64 games combined), Ellis finally started to show signs of putting it all together in 2013-14. He played in close to a full season for the first time (80 games) and posted 27 points (six goals and 21 assists). He typically played on the third defensive pairing, averaging just 16:04 in ice time for the season. But he was used on the second power-play unit where he averaged 1:45 per game, good for fourth among Preds defensemen. Looking ahead, the Preds are still hoping Ellis can show the same kind of offensive skills he displayed in junior (300+ points over four seasons at OHL Windsor), but for now he will be used primarily in a stay-at-home defensive role and as a secondary special-teams guy.
Expectations were high for Ellis last season, as he was tabbed early on as one of the favorites to line up alongside Shea Weber following the departure of Ryan Suter. However, it turned out to be a disappointing campaign for Ellis. He missed the first half of the season with a broken wrist and then registered just six points in 33 games the rest of the way while playing mostly on the team's third defensive pairing. Looking ahead, Ellis could find himself as little more than a depth player come October, particularly with the Preds' first-round draft pick Seth Jones expected to open the season with the big club.
The 2012-13 season could be a pivotal one for Ellis. With Ryan Suter having departed for Minnesota as a free agent, the Preds will certainly be looking for someone to fill his skates on the team's top defensive pairing alongside Shea Weber. Ellis certainly has the scoring touch to fill that role -- particularly on the power play -- so be ready to bump him up a few notches on your draft sheets come October. At the very least, expect Ellis to play a regular role for the Preds next season after scoring 11 points in 32 games in 2011-12.
Ellis put up some impressive numbers last season - his last year of junior - posting 101 points in just 58 games. He was the first defender in the OHL to break the century mark in points in 17 years and the first blueliner to nab Player of the Year since Brian Campbell did it way back in 1998-99. With a solid training camp, he may prove he's ready to jump directly into the NHL. Otherwise, he will likely open the season at the AHL level, but the kid will eventually crack the Preds' lineup for good - he's about as blue-chip as they come.
Nashville's top pick in the 2009 Entry Draft had 61 regular-season points for the OHL's Windsor Spitfires last year, as well as 38 points in 23 playoff games. The Predators' brass likes what it sees in Ellis, but they are not going to rush the 19-year-old into active duty before he's ready. It will probably be another season or two before you see Ellis at the NHL level, but he'll get there. He projects as a top-four defenseman who can move the puck as well as quarterback the power play.