Friday night, Ryan Ellis played his first game for the Nashville Predators since the Winter Classic on January 1st. Ellis didn’t score any points but did play over 23 minutes in his return to action. He missed almost eight weeks with a concussion after receiving a very dirty hit from Dallas Stars forward Corey Perry on January 1st. His return to the lineup could not have come at a better time for the Predators, who are currently fighting for their playoff lives in the Western Conference playoff race. Let’s discuss what Ellis’s return to the lineup means for Nashville.
Ryan Ellis the Player
Ryan Ellis is one of the Predator’s best and most important players. He is a legitimate top pair defenseman who can play 25+ minutes a night and in all situations. The 29-year-old is a tremendous two-way player five-on-five, can play the point on the powerplay, and can be a shutdown defender on the penalty kill. Over the course of his career, Ellis has consistently been a 30-40 point scorer and a plus player in almost all of his nine NHL seasons. This season, he has 6 goals, 23 assists, 29 points, and a plus/minus rating of +17, all in just 41 games played. Ryan Ellis is a top tier defenseman for the Nashville Predators. His return should greatly improve their chances of making the postseason.
Ryan Ellis the Leader
Another area that Ellis’s return greatly helps the Predators is leadership. The Predators are in the midst of a very disappointing season but are still within striking distance of making the playoffs. They need their top players and leaders to step up and lead the way. Ellis is one of those leaders for Nashville. He has spent his entire NHL career with the Predators and is one of the most important voices in that locker room. Ellis wears an “A” on his chest for a reason. Since coming into the league in 2011-12, he has played over 500 games with the Predators. He also has played 64 playoff games. That kind of experience will be crucial to helping the Predators down the stretch. His leadership was greatly missed when he was out of the lineup. His return should be a huge boost to the team.
Taking the Pressure Off
The final area that Ellis’s return greatly helps the Predators is it takes some pressure off their other defensemen. Roman Josi now has his normal defense partner back. When Ellis was out, Josi often found himself trying to do too much. He knew that he was the top guy and needed to perform at a high level. For the most part, he did. But there were definitely times when Josi tried to do everything at once and it hurt the team. Now with Ellis back, Josi has another high-end defenseman and his normal partner in the lineup. He won’t have to do so much all the time.
Some pressure has also been taken off young defenseman Dante Fabbro. With Ellis out, the 21-year-old Fabbro found himself thrust into a top-three defense role. Fabbro is a very solid young defenseman, but that is a lot of pressure to put on a kid in his first full NHL season. With Ellis back, Fabbro has some of that pressure taken off and can just focus on playing his game rather than being a top guy.
Finally, the Predator’s depth defenseman can now return to being depth defenseman. Ellis’s injury forced players like Dan Hamhuis, Matt Irwin, Jarred Tinordi, and Yannick Weber to play more games and minutes than they normally would. Now that he’s back, the Predators can cut down on the minutes for those guys, and even sit some of them out if they aren’t playing well. This should improve Nashville’s defensive play as a whole.
Ryan Ellis’s return to the lineup is a very welcomed sight for the Nashville Predators. He is a top tier defenseman who should greatly improve the Predator’s defense and boost their chances of making the playoffs this season. His leadership and experience are needed down the stretch. His return also takes the pressure off of other defensemen in the Predator’s lineup. Nashville is still two points out of a playoff spot and no lock to make the postseason. But Ryan Ellis’s return is certainly a huge boost and will help them in their playoff push.
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