There are always numerous players in every draft year in which one takes a look at them and wonders why they are not ranked higher.
Ryan Ellis is one of those players.
A defenseman for the Windsor Spitfires and ranked 16th by Central Scouting, Ellis is one of the most talented defenseman in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
During the Spitfires’ OHL playoff run, Ellis led all defensemen with 31 points and led the league with 23 assists in just 20 games.
During the regular season, he finished first among defensemen and seventh in the league with 89 points in 57 games, a number that included 22 goals. He also had an astounding plus-52 rating, which ranked second in the league.
Ellis was a gold medalist with Team Canada at the 2009 World Junior Championships in addition to being a 2008-09 OHL All Star, an invite to the CHL Prospects Game and an OHL representative in the 2008 Canada/Russia Challenge.
“It was something special for sure,” Ellis said about playing in the WJC. “I think the Russian game just goes to show we never give up and how Canadians play hockey. Winning that gold medal meant a lot to this country and a lot to the players especially.”
The projected first round pick started skating at age four, where he played his first game as a member of the Belmont Bombers. He then spent the next 14 years as a member of the Flamborough Hockey Association.
“It was mainly just in the driveway,” he stated, regarding the start of his hockey "career."
“I think I spent a lot of time there and had a few neighbors I played with. My dad as well put a lot of time and effort into the moves in the driveway.
"They kind of just translated to my game and got more and more comfortable in hockey and just playing. It just kind of started all there…It's been a lot of fun growing up.”
Ellis was given numerous honors by the OHL this season, including best offensive defenseman, smartest player, and hardest shot.
“[Other OHL coaches have] never seen a defenseman have an impact in a junior game like Ryan Ellis,” Spitfires’ coach Bob Boughner stated. “He seems to be in on every play defensively and offensively.
"If you come away from the game and you look at who was your favorite player, who played the best, his name always seems to come to mind.
"There are plays where he's making something out of nothing. And his biggest asset is his shot. He's got an NHL one-timer, he's got an NHL slap shot, and that's a dangerous weapon,” Boughner said.
“I'm an offensive defenseman for sure. I'm undersized,” the 5'9", 173 pound defenseman explained. “People kind of think I'm a little smaller for a defensive game, but I think I try to be responsible in my own end as well as sometimes lead the rush and try to chip in offensively as much as I can.
I'm a power-play kind of guy. I like to get out there and get a few points here and there. Other than that, I think I just try to be a well-rounded defenseman.”
NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards agreed.
“He's a really smart, heady defenseman," Edwards said. "His puck movement is excellent and the way he moves the puck around the zone is excellent.
"He's a real high-end offensive guy. He's got a great shot and he gets it through to the net. A lot of guys have their shots blocked, but he's got a real knack for getting it through, and that leads to a lot of tip-in and rebound goals.
"He's a smaller guy, but he's not afraid of taking the body. He shows no fear of getting involved in scrums, he's not intimidated.”
Many scouts have said that Ellis’ game resembles that of Brian Rafalski, and Ellis agreed.
“It's Brian Rafalski for the most part and a little bit of Kris Russell, who is in Columbus," Ellis said. "I think both are undersized guys and are a little underrated too. They don't get the justice for how good they really are for being undersized.
"I think they're great puck-moving defensemen, very poised and calm with the puck. They have a lot of offensive upside as well. I think that makes them that much better than the rest of the defensemen there.”
Ellis is a hockey nut who enjoys playing NHL 09, and whose favorite movie is Slap Shot, as it is for many hockey fans.
He was a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs growing up and now calls Columbus’ Kris Russell his favorite player.
His idols as a young hockey player often varied.
“I was a forward to start. So there were always names like Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic," Ellis said. "I think as I moved to defense, there was Rob Blake and people like that who were just kind of the big-game players.
"When I got older, I finally realized who I wanted to be like and players I should try to model my game after, and it became players like Brian Rafalski.”
Well, if his game his truly that similar to Rafalski, then we’re in for a treat of an NHL career.
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