Ryan Ellis, drafted by the Nashville Predators at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, had great success at the OHL level with the Windsor Spitfires. Is he ready for the next level? Let's find out!
Andrew Echevarria: Hey, Ryan. Once again, thanks a lot for agreeing to do the interview. I really appreciate it.
Ryan Ellis: Yeah, it’s no problem at all.
AE: Let’s get started by getting to know you a little better. Tell us about yourself growing up and how you started playing hockey.
RE: I grew up in a small town outside of London, Ontario called Belmont [and] played single B hockey for a while. And once I moved back to Hamilton, which is where I’m originally from, I started playing more competitive hockey: single A, triple A, stuff like that. Finally, I was drafted into the OHL and began playing in Windsor, and now I was just drafted into the NHL.
AE: Did you have a favourite team growing up?
RE: I was always a Leafs fan, I think. My parents and all my grandparents were Leaf fans, so I think it just kinda grew on me, and I watched them every Saturday night...It’s kind of in my blood, I guess
AE: That’s cool. Tell me, Ryan, how did it feel playing alongside other top prospects for the '09 draft at the World Juniors? And is there anything you’ll take from this experience and use later in your career?
RE: I think it was just pretty awesome, not just [playing with] the other prospects like Tavares and guys like that, but other people who have already been through the draft like Thomas Hickey. It was really surreal at one point knowing I played with these guys that were drafted before I was, and it was an amazing experience that won’t be forgotten.
AE: Yeah, it must’ve been great.
RE: Yeah, it was pretty awesome.
AE: This question is a little out of date, but you and the Spitfires were amazing last season. What or who would you credit for an amazing regular and postseason?
RE: I think it had a lot to do with the character in our room. We lost a big part of our team last year, and I think we became close, and definitely one of the closest if not the closest team in the CHL as far as team values is going. I think that our coaching staff engraved in our head that team comes first and team mentality is how we play the game. But I think we had the best coach in the CHL for the last two years, [so] that’s been a big part of our success, and I think the players as well;. The players who get drafted are brought in and have been a big part growing as players on and off the ice
AE: Yeah, and it’s definitely shown with you guys winning the Memorial Cup and all. You were also a big part of the team, and without you, they probably wouldn’t have done as well as they did. A lot of people judge you by your height, but do you think you would’ve been a better player and perhaps gotten more points if you were higher? Do you think height makes a big impact on the game?
RE: I don’t think so at all. There’s a lot of players that haven’t put up the numbers I have that are 6'2", 6'3", whatever you want to say. I don’t think it’s ever held me back, and don’t think it ever will as far as playing at the next level goes, and I think you've got to with [a] what God’s sort of given you thing. I’ve grown up the same way I have the past 18 years, so I can’t change how tall I’m going to be or how strong I’m going to be or anything like that. I don’t think it’s ever been a problem, I don’t think it’s ever going to be a problem, and I’m just looking forward to the future.
AE: Moving along, I’m sure you were very anxious on draft day to know who was going to draft you. Were you surprised that Nashville picked you to be part of the team?
RE: I think yeah, a little bit. I talked to them and had a good interview at the combine, but I think there were a few other teams on my radar that I thought I was going to go to. Once they took me, I couldn’t be happier, though. I think a lot of weight came off my shoulder, and I finally knew what NHL team I was going to be a part of and hope to be a part of one day, and I think all my family and friend were pretty excited when my name was called.
AE: OK, this is a question just out of curiosity. Did the Toronto Maple Leafs contact you at any time?
RE: Yeah, I had an interview with them at the combine, and that was about all the interviewing I did with them. I think they were keen on getting a forward in there, and I think they found a gem with Kadri.
AE: Interesting thought, Ryan. What do you think you can bring to a team like Nashville that hasn’t been very successful in the recent years?
RE: I think they got a lot of talent. Their defence is one of the tops in the league—they have guys like Suter and Shea Weber and Dan Hamhuis, so I think the defense is a pretty solid part. I think they want a more offensive style game and a more up-tempo game, and I think that’s where I come in and that’s where I can fit in with the team. Wether I’m contributing offensively or defensively, I think Nashville’s going to be a heck of a team in the future, even in the next year. They’ve got some great players coming in, and I think there’s a real future for me there
AE: Yeah, there’s definitely a big future for you there, hopefully things go well. Along the lines of yourself as a player, do you think you’re ready to play in the NHL start next season?
RE: I’d like to think so. I’ve done a lot of work in the weight room, and even on the track and what not, so a lot of off ice work this season. I haven’t have had a lot of time, but I think I’d like to think I am ready to play in the NHL next year, but that could be a stretch. We’ll have to see how NHL’s training camp goes, and I think that’s really when I’ll be able to pace myself and see how long or if I am ready or whatnot, and if I’m back in Windsor, I think we have another great team and a great chance of winning something again.
AE: Yeah, definitely. Ryan, you’ve been compared to players like Bobby Orr and Brian Rafalski, how exactly do you see yourself in these comparisons?
RE: I think being compared to Bobby Orr is definitely a stretc., He’s one of the best, if not the best, player ever to play, so I think that’s a bit of a stretch. I think Brian Rafalski’s an unbelievable player [with] great talent. He’s been a big part of the team with Detroit and even in New Jersey, [and] he’s won many cups and he’s done a great job in the NHL and he’s a great player. And he’s making a lot of money, so I think to be compared with someone like that to myself would be a great compliment.
AE: Are there any organizations you hope to be involved with sometime down your career? Also, are there any players you’d like to play alongside in the future?
Ryan: I don’t think there are too many certain teams—I think that playing in the NHL is good enough for me. It doesn’t matter what team I’m playing on or whatnot, but players, for sure. There are guys you can learn from and guys you want to meet. You hear stories about how good of a captain or leader they are, and I think to play with someone like Mark Messier if he was still playing would be an unbelievable experience. But I think playing with guys like Sydney Crosby and people like that, that would be a dream come true too, knowing how good they are and the talent they have and the people they are on and off the ice would be something special.
AE: Have any thoughts of what you’ll do when you’re done playing hockey crossed your mind? Whether it’s from coaching to management?
RE: Not too much. I think I’m just focused on playing the game, and I’m only 18, so hopefully I’ll have a long career and not have to think about that too much, especially right now where I’m focused on making the jump and not what’s going to happen afterwards.
AE: Well Ryan, you’ve clearly learned a lot from when you started playing hockey to where you are now. Do you have any advice for young hockey players out there?
RE: I think just kind of stick with it. I think a lot of people have doubted me and other people over the course of my and their careers, so just kind of stick with it and don’t give up and listen to what other people say. Just kind of believe in your heart, and I think that’s what matters the most, and that’s what you've got to believe, and you can never go wrong with that.
You can find out more about Ryan Ellis on Alan Bass' article Ryan Ellis: NHL Draft Prospect You Won't Want To Miss